On Tuesday, January 10th, the city Planning Commission denied LG Realty approval of their preliminary land development plans for the Penn Plaza site. This vote was delayed from a previous commission hearing in December, during which hundreds of community members, residents, and supporters came out to testify about the massive displacement, lack of community process, and harm inflicted by LG Realty.
Let’s send a note of thanks to the planning commission to let them know that they have the support of the community.
Pittsburghers for Public Transit, along with other organizations including Homes for All, Northside Coalition for Fair Housing, and the Enright Park Association, highlighted the developers’ blatant disregard for community process and the well-being of the residents, many of whom still have not found housing and face the imminent threat of eviction. They face the possibility of being displaced from a neighborhood in which they have lived and thrived for decades.
The proposed plan included up to four hundred units of market rate housing and a Whole Foods. The developer also misrepresented the size and design of the park and open space. Additionally, the only open, public meeting that was held was scheduled the night before the hearing in December, and no effort was made to speak about any part of the plans other than the design of the park.
The developer faced massive push-back both at that meeting and at the initial hearing the next day. It was clear to all in the room that the development was not in the interest of the residents or the community, and that we care what happens to our neighborhood. We care to make sure that Pittsburgh does not ignore the people of this city in its scramble for shinier, fancier developments.
The decision showed us that we are capable of causing change when we come together and stand in solidarity. People do have power, and we must remember more than ever that we need to act together to wield it.
The developers are currently in the process of appealing the decision, so the fight is not over yet! Let us celebrate our victories, but continue to fight harder for our communities, our neighbors, our friends. We’ll need it more than ever, in this fight, and for the many more in the future. Remember to send the note of thanks!
After a 3 hour-long public hearing, with lots of opposition to the Penn Plaza re-development presented, the Planning Commission filed for a “continuance,” which means they’ll deliberate and vote on the preliminary land development plan on January 10th. Planning Director Ray Gastil mentioned that they needed time to address the concerns about community process and fair housing.
From: Molly Nichols, Director of Pittsburghers for Public Transit
Re: Pennley Park South PLDP
“If it’s not for all; it’s not for us.” I urge you to consider this line as you review and vote on the Pennley Park South New Development proposal. This quote is connected to an initiative led by the Mayor’s office called P4. I am grateful to live in a city where our Mayor and his administration verbally commit to building an equitable city, where everyone is supposed to benefit from the growth, and no one is left behind.
But too often do I see decisions get made that contradict this commitment. Just look at this development. Over 300 units of affordable housing have been, or will soon be razed by LG realty. Hundreds of residents have been displaced, residents who had lived there for decades—to places with less access to grocery stores, doctors, jobs, schools, friends, family, social networks, and most near and dear to the organization I work with, public transit. Residents have been forced to move to places outside the city including Penn Hills, Plum, Sharpsburg, Homestead, Brentwood, Charleroi, Baldwin, Green Tree, Creighton, McDonald, Academy, Duquesne, Monroeville, McKeesport, California.
The plans for this site include up to 400 market rate units and a luxury grocery store. Is this a development for all? When only those who can afford apartments that cost 1600/month and more can live and shop there? The median rent for East Liberty residents in 2013 was $575. Where is the space for residents who most need the robust transit service in this community? The two phases of the East Liberty Transit Revitalization investment district, which Penn Plaza is now part of, include the development of 1486 units. Do you know how many are affordable? 117. That’s 7.8%. 61 in the first phase at E Liberty Place South, and 56 in the second phase at Mellon’s Orchard. We should learn from other cities that built inequitable transit oriented development. In many instances, ridership barely went up, and in DC the majority of residents living near Metro stops went from black to white.
You may want to create mixed income neighborhoods, but the only way to do that, without displacing long-time residents, is by building more affordable units into the new developments. Otherwise, as was stated by the Commission on Human Relations, in effect you are excluding members of protected classes, including the elderly, people with disabilities, and African-Americans. And if you do that, you are violating your own obligation to further fair housing, your own comprehensive plan to increase the supply of affordable and accessible housing in this city.
The city may only have so much control over the decisions of a private developer, the forces of the market, the financing mechanisms, etc. But that is why your role is so important today. You, the planning commission, have the authority to give approval to these development plans, or not. We recognize that the Mayor’s office played an important role, after a robust community led campaign for the residents who faced eviction, to negotiate for the developers to delay the evictions, offer re-location assistance, and give up half of a tax break for an affordable housing fund.
But these concessions are not nearly enough. That fund is spread out over 10-20 years, and is banking on there being affordable housing elsewhere. Why not dedicate money for this development itself to include affordable units? If these developers are committed to affordable housing and equity, as they claimed to be at the community meeting last night, giving up half of a tax break for an undetermined number of affordable units, at some other location, is woefully insufficient. LG realty has and will bulldoze over 300 units; they’ve gotten zoning approvals, and plan to make significant and unpopular changes to a city owned park. And they only shared these plans at a full public meeting 18 hours ago—demonstrating a complete lack of legitimate community process.
The planning commission should not approve this development, most especially because it excludes protected classes from access. If it’s not for all; it’s not for us.
UPDATE: We have received word from PNC that they intend to restore seating for riders, closer to the bus stop itself. This is good news, and we will be in touch with them about how to create a space that is most amenable to the folks who use the stop each day.
December 5, 2016
Dear PNC Chairman William Demchak,
Pittsburghers for Public Transit is writing to express our grave concern that the public seating on the northeast corner of Forbes Ave and Wood St, right by the bus stop and the new PNC tower, has been removed. When the building was first completed, we were pleased to see the seating available for bus riders, pedestrians, employees, and patrons at the nearby restaurants. Removing public seating from such a valuable space downtown, without a transparent approval process from the city, is unacceptable. Today, riders are resorting to sitting on the mounds of dirt while waiting for the bus. We are asking for you to take swift action to restore the seating.
70% of people who are on the sidewalks in downtown on an average day are waiting for a bus. The presence of the seating outside the PNC tower was an important acknowledgement that transit riders’ needs were being prioritized, and it served as a model for other locations. The seating should not have been taken away, especially if we consider the impact on senior riders and those with mobility challenges.
We understand there is a commitment from PNC to improve public space in downtown Pittsburgh, especially for pedestrians and transit riders through the Envision Downtown project. We expect you to consult with the City, and transit riders who use this bus stop each day, to immediately restore the seating at this location.
on behalf of Pittsburghers for Public Transit
Cc: Mayor Bill Peduto, City Planning Director Ray Gastil
On Saturday, October 8th, over 75 residents from Garfield and Penn Hills, and supporters from across Pittsburgh, filled the Kelly Strayhorn theater lobby to celebrate the success of their campaigns for increased bus service! After a year of community meetings, petitions, rallies, and testimonies before the Port Authority Board and elected officials, residents now have extended bus service on route 79 in Penn Hills and weekend service on the 89 in Garfield. The enthusiasm and joy were palpable in the speeches and mood of the crowd.
Annie McGowan, a resident leader from Garfield, said in her fiery speech, “It’s just wonderful to see a community come together. It’s wonderful to see a community that doesn’t give up at all no matter what you say, what you do. Because we know what it’s like to walk those hills. We know what it’s like when we have to count on somebody to take us to church and then bring us back home.”
Tony Williams, from Lincoln Park in Penn Hills, shared how challenging it is to get around without a car. He encouraged residents to ride the extended service and help get the word out!
Video by Dean Mougianis
Leaders from both the campaigns shared their experiences mobilizing neighbors and explained what a difference this extended service would make in their lives. State Representative Ed Gainey commended the hard work of community members and encouraged residents to continue to unite for better public transit! Aggie Brose, from the Bloomfield Garfield Corporation, shared how this campaign is a stepping stone for continued strides towards creating equitable communities. And Molly Nichols, from Pittsburghers for Public Transit, called on the need for more funding for public transit, especially from major corporations and institutions. She also shared the importance of fighting for affordable housing near frequent transit.
Everyone thanked the Port Authority for listening to their requests but also acknowledged the high level of demand in Allegheny County for improved transit service. Speakers emphasized the need for communities to support each other, highlighting the sense of unity and strength that they had felt in their campaigns. Many expressed the desire to stay and fight for those who still have limited or no access to public transit. McGowan closed the event saying, “I just want you to remember the ones that don’t have bus service, [hundreds of routes] were discontinued. We got to remember them. We got to stand with them. We got to do for them. Remember them please…And let’s move forward!”
These campaigns were led by the residents of Garfield and Penn Hills, and supported by Pittsburghers for Public Transit, the Bloomfield Garfield Corporation, Lincoln Park Community Center, and the Penn Hills NAACP.
Please join us on Saturday Oct 8 to celebrate getting increased bus service in Garfield and Penn Hills! After a year long resident-led campaign, the 89 will now run on weekends in Garfield. The 79 will run all day and on weekends along the current P17 route. WE DID IT!
Residents worked hard to advocate for this service, and riders are thrilled to have these much needed connections to jobs, school, shopping, events, medical appointments, places of worship, and more. Thanks to all who helped make this happen!We know more communities still need service, and we look forward to keeping up the fight.
Residents will ride Route 89 from Garfield and Route 79/82 from Penn Hills to attend the celebration at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater lobby, 5941 Penn Ave. Supporters are invited to join us on the bus or at the theater. We’ll have refreshments, a short film, and featured speakers!
Garfield riders: meet at 9:20 am at Fern and Mossfield St to take the 89 to East Liberty Penn Hills riders: meet at 9:10 am at Mark and Calmar to take the 79 (which becomes the 82). Or you can hop on the 79 from the Giant Eagle . All supporters: please join us at the celebration at 1030 am! you all helped make this possible, and we encourage you to come celebrate with us!
The event is cohosted by Pittsburghers for Public Transit, the Bloomfield Garfield Corporation, the Lincoln Park Community Center, and the Kelly Strayhorn Theater
For more information, contact Pittsburghers for Public Transit:
On Friday May 27th, 830 am, outside the Wood St T station transit advocates, riders, and supporters will hold a press conference to celebrate Port Authority’s proposal for increased service in Garfield and Penn Hills. We will then attend the Port Authority board meeting at 930 am, 345 Sixth Ave, 5th floor, to ask the board to vote (in June) for the budget that includes these additions.
Over the past year, Pittsburghers for Public Transit supported three campaigns for increased bus service. Residents came together, shared their needs with elected officials, held rallies downtown, and formally made requests through Port Authority’s service guidelines. Overall, the agency received 85 distinct requests from over 1500 individuals. This demonstrates the high level of demand in our county for improved transit service.
Residents are here to celebrate the proposals for weekend service on the 89 in Garfield and the extended 79 along the Mt Carmel Rd corridor in Penn Hills. See annual service report, page 26.
These proposed changes will make a huge difference in these communities. “We are glad there is this an opportunity to expand transportation in Penn Hills because it is greatly needed. We see so many residents who struggle to get to appointments, jobs, training programs, and the store,” said Joyce Davis, from the Lincoln Park Community Center and Penn Hills NAACP.
Annie McGowan, resident of Garfield said: “Me and my mom have to depend on someone else to take us to church. A lot of senior citizens can’t get out for church activities, shopping, and meeting family and friends. Now we’ll be able to hop on the bus!”
“We would like to acknowledge all the elected officials who listened to the residents and helped highlight this need,” said Aggie Brose, Deputy Director of the Bloomfield Garfield Corporation. “We all came together and organized, and we are thrilled to see this recommendation for added service.”
The advocates and residents are also there to support all communities in the county who still need better bus service. Representatives from the Buses for Perry Highway campaign will highlight the need for more funding so that service can run along Perry Highway, north of Westview Shopping center to CCAC North, Northland Public Library, and other destinations. The campaign plans to continue to advocate for this much needed service.
We also want to commend the Port Authority for making their service planning and decision-making processes more transparent and inclusive—a model for other agencies around the country. The annual service report carefully indicates how each request for service was evaluated and helps the public understand just how many communities need more transit.
Transit advocates and supporters are calling on elected officials, public agencies, institutions, and communities to all come together to secure more funding for the Port Authority. There is 16 million dollars in the drink tax fund balance. This fund is dedicated to public transit in Allegheny County, and there is no reason a few million dollars each year could not be allocated to Port Authority’s operating budget. This would enable them to provide service to more communities in need. We must all work together to secure even more sources of funding. Buslines are lifelines, and improving our public transit system is vital to the entire region.
Pittsburghers for Public Transit is thrilled to see that the Port Authority’s annual service report released today includes proposals to add transit service (see page 26). These proposals, along with the budget for 2016-2017, will be voted on by the Port Authority board in June.
The proposed expansions in service include:
-provide route 89 service in Garfield on the weekends
-expand route 79 and P17 service along Mt Carmel road on weekdays and weekends
-expand G3 service to include reverse-direction commute trips to University Blvd Park and Ride
PPT, along with the Bloomfield Garfield Corporation, supported a resident-led campaign for weekend service on the 89 in Garfield. And working with the Lincoln Park Community Center, we supported a campaign in Penn Hills for extended 79 and P17 service along Mt. Carmel Road. Hundreds of residents came together to advocate for this much needed service. PPT also supported residents in Moon Township who called for reverse service on the G3. These proposed changes will make a huge difference in these communities–providing more access to jobs, schools, grocery stores, medical appointments, and more.
“We are glad there is this an opportunity to expand transportation in Penn Hills because it is greatly needed. We see so many residents who struggle to get to appointments, jobs, training programs, and the store. This expansion would really help them,” said Joyce Davis, from the Lincoln Park Community Center and Penn Hills NAACP.
After hearing about the proposal Annie McGowan, resident of Garfield said: “Wow, that is so great! Me and my mom have to depend on someone else to take us to church. A lot of senior citizens can’t get out for church activities, shopping, and meeting family and friends. Now we’d be able to hop on the bus!”
“We would like to acknowledge all the elected officials representing Garfield who listened to the residents and helped highlight this need,” said Aggie Brose, Deputy Director of the Bloomfield Garfield Corporation. “We all came together and organized, and we are thrilled to see this recommendation for added service.”
Pittsburghers for Public Transit is disappointed to see that many communities who made requests for service, including the campaign for service along Perry Highway (to CCAC North and Northland Public Library), are not getting service extensions. Our elected officials, public agencies, institutions, and communities need to all come together to secure more funding for Port Authority. There is 16 million dollars in the drink tax fund balance. This fund is dedicated to public transit in Allegheny County, and there is no reason a few million dollars each year could not be allocated to Port Authority’s operating budget. This would enable them to provide service to more communities in need.
We also want to commend the Port Authority for making their service planning and decision-making processes more transparent and inclusive. The service report carefully indicates how each request for service was evaluated and helps the public understand how the agency responds to community requests and weighs equity as a crucial factor in their service planning.
“Our organization thinks that those communities deserve transit service. And we are concerned that more and more residents in the city of Pittsburgh cannot find affordable housing in the city, and go outside the city, where they don’t have good access to transit.”
The article quotes Darnell Jones from Groveton and Autumn Conley from Hulton Arbors.
Pittsburghers for Public Transit (PPT) is celebrating National Transit Worker Appreciation Day on Monday March 21st. PPT encourages riders and residents to thank our bus and rail operators and maintenance workers for keeping us moving.
Pittsburghers for Public Transit is coordinating over a dozen volunteers to distribute thank you cards to transit riders, who can deliver them to their bus operators. We will also be distributing cards to maintenance workers. These cards say: “Because you rock, I roll,” and “Thanks for keeping us moving.”
On Monday March 21st, cards will be available between 12 and 1 and between 4 and 6 at Forbes and Bigelow in Oakland and between 3 and 6 outside Wood St station downtown.
Riders can print out their own cards at this website:www.transitdriverday.org
We appreciate the opportunity to thank and honor the 2,000 public transit workers in Allegheny County who get riders to our destinations safely. These workers are out 365 days a year in rain, snow, ice, and frigid temperatures, as well as our hot summers. Bus operators collect fares, help riders find their way, handle safety issues, keep to a strict route schedule, and manage their way through traffic—along the steep and winding streets of our region. Maintenance workers maintain, repair, and clean the rails, buses, busways, stations, etc. These workers are the backbone of our transit system, and we are grateful for the work they do each day to keep Allegheny County moving.
“The drivers deal with all the traffic so that I don’t have to.” –James Keener.
“I appreciate transit workers because they drive me to all of the places I need to go safely and stress free.” –Daisha Bernal
Social media tags: #pghlovestransitworkers, #transitworkerday, #twd, #thankyoutransitworkers, #Pgh4Pubtransit
Over a dozen speakers from 10 organizations addressed the Port Authority board during their monthly meeting today. The board voted to approve leasing their property at the Castle Shannon T stop for the Shannon Transit Village development.
Post Gazette coverage of the meeting is here: http://www.post-gazette.com/local/city/2016/03/18/Port-Authority-gives-a-go-to-controversial-apartment-development-at-Castle-Shannon-T-stop/stories/201603180208
Trib coverage is here: http://triblive.com/news/allegheny/10170209-74/housing-affordable-residents
Representatives from PPT, the Thomas Merton Center, the Hill District Consensus Group, the City County Task Force on Disabilities, the Northside Coalition for Fair Housing, the Coalition of Organized Residents in East Liberty, the Penn Hills NAACP, and the Fight for 15 campaign addressed the board on March 18th about the need for inclusive equitable development and, specifically, affordable housing near our transit hubs.
Speakers emphasized the importance of equitable transit oriented development that works to preserve, maintain, and create affordable housing near the best transit service. We understand the Port Authority is currently working on developing transit oriented development (TOD) guidelines—the first of their kind in the state of Pennsylvania. This is excellent news, and we commend the agency for not only developing them but also for including affordable housing as a key principle. We are here today to highlight how important this issue is to many residents in our county and to share why it is crucial for this to be a priority for the agency.
Pittsburghers for Public Transit board chair Jonah McAllister Erickson said, “the agency should develop a policy that requires publicly funded developments at Port Authority stations to include adequate affordable housing and to preserve and maintain affordability in communities.”
We are concerned that TOD, to date, especially in East Liberty, has not been equitable. This publicly funded project includes a development right on the busway with 360 market rate units. Those units should be available to people of all income brackets. Alethia Sims, with the Coalition of Organized Residents, says, “It is unfair that people who need public transportation the most are getting pushed farther away from it. They cannot afford the housing that was just built right next to the East Liberty busway.”
The Shannon Transit Village development at the T stop is using 12 million dollars of public funds (including community development block grants, designed for low-income communities), but it is not adequately serving the public. The development is made up of 152 units of “market rate” housing, which cost $1,150 to $1,800/month. Molly Rush, a resident of Dormont with many family members in Castle Shannon, says, “Who can afford rent that high? The development should be available to all residents of our communities.” The current average rents in Castle Shannon start at $500/month.
“Any publicly funded project in our county must work for all of us,” said Lena Germany, a McDonald’s worker and member of the Pittsburgh Fight for $15. “Creating affordable housing around transit hubs can help level the playing field by providing access to reliable transportation and better paying jobs.”
Full statement from Pittsburghers for Public Transit is here:
My name is Jonah McAllister Erickson, and I’m the Chair of PPT’s coordinating committee. Pittsburghers for Public Transit would like to commend the Port Authority for developing transit oriented development (TOD) guidelines, which we expect to be public in April. These are the first guidelines the Port Authority has ever developed, and the first in Pennsylvania, and the mid-Atlantic region. This is a very significant step and worth noting the hard work of the staff who have developed them. We also want to commend the guidelines for including affordable housing as a fundamental principle for equitable TOD.
We want to add that there should be a policy that requires Port Authority’s TOD to include affordable housing, and to preserve and maintain affordability in communities. The Port Authority—in consultation with the communities, developers, municipalities, authorities, departments—must ensure that adequate affordable housing is near the most frequent and accessible transit service.
To date, development near transit in our region has not included adequate affordable housing. For example, the East Liberty Transit Center. The Eastside Bond apartments, built right along the busway, include 360 units. Not one of them is affordable. Rentals start at 1100 for a studio and go up to 3600 for a 2 bedroom. East Liberty Place South is part of this TOD, but that only includes 61 affordable units. We are pleased to see there is now a fund being set up that is dedicated to affordable housing, but we are concerned that the huge number of units right on the busway, funded through public money, are not open to people of all income brackets. As property values go up in this neighborhood, long-time residents (many of whom are reliant on transit) need to be more protected from displacement.
The residents of Penn Plaza were evicted at the end of February. Some have found new apartments, but many were just temporarily re-located and will have to move again. Where will the residents go? Where will they be able to find housing they can afford? Either places far away with limited transit access? Or places with no transit access? They may be forced to buy a car, which costs thousands and thousands more per year than riding a bus. They may be forced to bum rides, use jitneys, or choose not to take a job or see family or go to church. They could become, in the words of the residents of a transit desert, “prisoners in their own homes.”
Casy Stelitano: PPT wanted to understand how demographic shifts were happening in our region in relation to transit service. Over the last three months we have been working on an Equity Mapping Project, which tracks populations by race, income, access to a vehicle, and cost of housing. We have been focusing on racial demographic shifts, specifically looking at areas in our region that lost and gained significant amounts of African American residents. As a starting point for this research, we’re looking at decennial census data, comparing data from 2000 and 2010. (see maps and chart below)
As we mapped out our data we noticed a very obvious trend. Almost all census tracts that saw a significant decrease in African American residents were located in the city, specifically in the East End and Central Neighborhoods–areas that are walkable, key transit corridors with frequent service (where service comes up to every 12 mins in both directions, 19 hours a day, 7 days a week). Similarly, areas that saw significant increases in African American population were in the county, far away from frequent service and transit hubs. These findings help demonstrate the need for equitable transit oriented development. A lot of the African American residents who are no longer in the city and are now living in the county have limited to no access to decent transportation, which is necessary for them to get to jobs, schools, medical care, art and cultural events, grocery stores, and friends and family. Many residents have come to you and shared personal stories of suffering and hardship due to poor transit in their communities. Port Authority must play a role in making sure that any development near a transit hub includes options for everyone.
The Port Authority is currently involved in three developments along the T in the South Hills, and none of these plans include affordable housing. Today, you will be voting on whether or not to approve a lease of your property at the Castle Shannon T stop. The Shannon Transit Village development will include 152 residential units, and all of them are “market rate.” They cost 1150 to 1800, when the current average rents for Castle Shannon residents is 500-1500 dollars. Any development near the T should not only preserve affordability but also be available to low and moderate income residents. The project is using 12 million dollars, or 28%, of public funding. This includes community development block grants, which are federal grants to benefit low to moderate income communities. We understand the project involves improvement of public infrastructure, but the residential development should also benefit the public and not just those who can afford the market rate.
We need to ensure that the existing infrastructure, especially the busways and the T are accessible to the people who need it the most. Otherwise, it hurts the agency itself. Low-income people are less likely to own cars, so they rely more heavily on transit. When they get pushed out from areas with solid transit service, Port Authority loses ridership. Then the agency has to pay more to provide service out to remote areas. PPT insists that all transit oriented development should be equitable and inclusive, and we want to support the agency in making that happen.