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S.S. Forum discusses fire, Zone commander Reporter and Esser plaza lights 36th District Inside This Week’s South • Pittsburgh
Join PennEnvironment and newly-elected PA State Representative Jessica Benham (D-36) for an online Meet and Greet on Thursday, Feb. 18 from 5:30-6:30 p.m.
By Margaret L. Smykla Contributing Writer Reflections on the fiery demise of a historic South Side building the prior day headlined the Feb. 9 Zoom meeting of the South Side See Page 2 Planning Forum. Other highlights included Western PA United Way of South- introduction of the new Zone western Pennsylvania’s 3 commander, and a lighting Free Tax Prep program is proposal for Esser’s Plaza offering free virtual or hy- involving PED funds. The four-story building in brid tax preparation for inthe 1100 block of East Cardividuals. son St. destroyed by a mas@ sopghreporter.com sive fire housed the South Pittsburgh Side Chamber of Commerce Mayor William Peduto offices (including Welcome is making appointments Center), barber shop, and to the City’s new LGBTQ- six apartments. Everyone esIA+ Commission. caped safely. @ sopghreporter.com The 150-year-old structure Pennsylvania is being demolished. Department of Human “It’s been a long day, and Services (DHS) Secretary a lot of people are stepping Teresa Miller and Penn- up,” an emotional Mark sylvania Department of Bucklaw, president of the Education (PDE) Depu- Chamber, said. ty Secretary for Postsec“We’re a family down ondary and Higher Edu- here, and we handle our cation Dr. Tanya I. Gar- problems internally,” South cia announced a tempo- Side Community Council rary change in eligibili- (SSCC) President Barbara ty for the Supplemental Rudiak said. Nutrition Assistance Pro“We lost a beautiful buildgram (SNAP), expanding ing, and a beautiful visitors eligibility to certain col- center. lege students who qual“We’re all here for you,” ify based off their fami- she said. lies’ income but normal“We’re rooting for you ly would be ineligible for and Candice [Gonzalez, exthe program due to being ecutive director],” Blake a student. McLaren, of the South Side @ sopghreporter.com Slopes Neighborhood AssoClassifieds................... Page 2 ciation (SSSNA), told Mr. Housing Court............... Online Bucklaw. New state Rep. JessiOr check them out at: ca Benham said her office www.sopghreporter.com would help with fundraising or whatever else was needed.
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City Councilman Bruce Kraus said he spent much of this day with a couple who lived on the third floor, and who lost everything, including family mementos. “It was heart-wrenching,” he said. The couple’s cat also died in the fire. A brief history provided by James Hill of the mayor’s office stated the structure was built in 1870 when South Side was known as Birmingham before it was annexed to Pittsburgh. In the early years the building housed a grocery store, bar/restaurant, and an illegal speakeasy during Prohibition in the 1920s. In 1930 there was Wade’s Tire Store, followed by a bar/restaurant again. In 1974 it was restored as it was prior to the fire. The meeting began with the introduction of Commander John Fisher, who replaces the newly-retired Commander Karen Dixon. This was his first day in his new role. Commander Fisher has been a Pittsburgh police officer for 34 years. Prior to that, he spent one year on the Mt. Oliver police force. He has worked in all three city police branches: operations, investigations, and administration. His Zone 3 focus will include: public safety issues, quality-of-life matters; mentoring of the young Zone 3 officers by himself and other police veterans; addressing the speakeasy problem; Continued on Page 3
City of Pittsburgh firefighters shortly after the collapse of the 150-year-old building at 11th and East Carson streets. The right side of the building housed the South Side Chamber of Commerce’s Welcome Center and several apartments above. Due to fire and water damage, the right side of the building had to also be demolished. Photo by Candice Gonzalez
South Side fire destroys historic building, Welcome Center, shop and six apartments A devastating four-alarm fire in South Side resulted in the collapse of a historic 150-year-old building that housed six apartments, J’s Master Barbershop and the South Side Welcome Center. The South Side Chamber of Commerce opened the Welcome Center at 1100 E. Carson Street in 2013. Since then, it has served as the Chamber’s headquarters and a central location for many community volunteers. The Welcome Center not only featured a custom-made street map of the South Side Flats on one wall, but also framed logos of Chamber members and sponsors. Visitors to the neighborhood could pick up information concerning local businesses and VisitPittsburgh materials. Although the firefighters and other first responders were there quickly and everyone was evacuated safely the building and all it con-
tained was lost. In a statement from the Board of Directors of the South Side Chamber of Commerce: “We are deeply grateful to the brave first responders, all of the firefighters, po-
lice officers and paramedics. They came from all parts of the City and evacuated the Welcome Center and all of the other building occupants. They fought hard to save our building and protect the Continued on Page 2
Mt. Oliver Borough Council held a special meeting with only one item on the agenda, a raise in compensation for the borough’s elected tax collector. In attendance were council members Amber McGough, Nicholas Viglione, Christina Reft, Paul Doyle, Francis Heckmann, David Lowe and Solicitor Emily Mueller. Also in attendance were Borough Manager Rick Hopkinson and Tax Collector Tina Carcia. Councilman Aaron Graham was not present. Citing her years of service, steady collections and recent
increases in the assessed values of borough properties, Tax Collector Carcia requested an increase in compensation. Currently, the compensation rate is 2.5 percent of the Real Estate Taxes collected in the borough. Ms. Carcia asked the amount be raised to 3.5 percent. In 2020, she received $21,875. According to the Local Tax Collection Law, for the Tax Collector to receive an increase or decrease in compensation, Borough Council would have to pass an ordinance or adopt a resolution Continued on Page 2
Boro tax collector will not be getting a raise in rate for 2022
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A message from the South Side fire destroys 150-year-old historic building for our building owner, our space and will keep Execu- ber is one of the best ways Continued from Page 1 around it. We are neighborhood, and for our- tive Director Candice Gon- to help. For more informaSouth Side Chamber building thankful that our neighbor selves to have lost this his- zalez while they maintain tion on the Chamber, or how barbers at J’s Master Bar- toric South Side architectur- member operations. Plans to become a member, visit: of Commerce ber Shop and all of our oth- al treasure.” call for continuing their sig- www.southsidechamber.org.
A New Beginning for an Old Tradition
The Chamber has arer building residents escaped ranged for temporary office safely. We are heartbroken As neighbors looked from their windows and many heard on the news, the beautifully restored 150-year-old building that hosted the South Side Welcome Center, J’s Master Barbershop, and six residential apartments succumbed to a 4-alarm fire on Monday, February 8th, 2021. The fire started mid-afternoon, and by evening half of the building Join PennEnvironment most important to you and collapsed to the ground due to devastating fire and water and newly-elected PA State your community. Bring your damage. Representative Jessica BenThis historic building at 1100 East Carson Street marked ham (D-36) for an online questions to this informal the eastbound portal of the South Side business district Meet and Greet on Thurs- chat with the newly electand served as the first-floor headquarters of the Chamber’s day, Feb. 18 from 5:30-6:30 ed State Representative for South Pittsburgh neighboroperations since May 2013. The unique office space p.m. hoods including South Side welcomed residents, visitors, business owners, and many This will be an opporcommunity collaborations and celebrations for the South tunity to learn more about Slopes, Carrick, Brentwood, Side business district. An artistic, custom-made map of the Rep. Benham’s priorities for and Baldwin -- Jessica BenSouth Side Flats decorated one entire wall, the other wall 2021 and talk about the en- ham. RSVP at: http://bit. was filled with framed logos of Chamber members and vironmental issues that are ly/3acbKuM sponsors. It featured VisitPittsburgh and neighborhood booklets, gratis to everyone that inquired about South Side attractions and beyond. We are deeply grateful to the brave first responders, all of the firefighters, police officers, and paramedics. They came from all parts of the City and evacuated the Welcome Center and all of the other building occupants. They fought hard to save our building and protect the buildings around it. We are thankful that our neighbor barbers at J’s Master Barber Shop and all of our other building residents escaped safely. We are heartbroken for our building owner, our neighborhood, and for ourselves to have lost this historic South Side architectural treasure. The building is gone but the Chamber is still here. We love the South Side and remain committed to continuing the HOMES & APARTMENTS RENTALS Chamber’s work as in the past while keeping our executive SOUTH SIDE director and fundraising for the resources needed for 1 BR, 2BR &3BR Homes & Apts. $675 to $1,600 Chamber operations. We intend to continue our signature Many Rentals @ realtycounseling.com fundraiser events, advocate for our businesses, support 1019 E. CARSON — FOR RENT — Whole bldg. -- 1st Fl. neighborhood initiatives, and operate the Chamber Clean Store, Loft & Basement...................................... $1,200/mo Team. The Chamber is funded through memberships, fundraising, event sponsorships, and donations. After the fire, many businesses, residents, and friends have asked how they may help the Chamber. They have been waiting COUNSELING CO. to hear what the Chamber needs. At this time, Chamber membership and fire relief donations are the best way to help. We will set up temporary office space and then have http://www.realtycounseling.com to replace two entire floors of our special event equipment and decorations that we lost. Your donations will make • Lawn Care • Wanted To Buy this happen. From our hearts, we thank you so much for your many $ WE BUY HOUSES CASH S N O W S H O V E L I N G — $ — Do you own an unwanted Overgrown Lawns & Weeds. messages of love, caring, and sympathy. South Side Chamber of Commerce house? Vacant? Needs Work? Leaf cleanup. Gutter cleaning. Roof patch & repair. Lawn Board of Directors Owe liens? Back Taxes? Call mowing, mulching, edging, now 412 276-6974 www. www.southsidechamber.org birchwoodgroupinc.com 10/26 hedge trimming, river rock.
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nature fundraising events, advocating for businesses, supporting neighborhood initiatives and operating the Chamber Clean Team. However, the fire not only claimed the Chamber’s headquarters, but two floors of office equipment and special fundraising materials. As a membership organization, joining the Cham-
On their webpage there is also a link to donate: http:// bit.ly/2ZfY5wf. Gofundme campaigns have also been created to help J’s Master Barbershop and residents of the upstairs apartments. The J’s Master Barbershop campaign is at: http://bit.ly/3tWQd0Q The gofundme for the residents is at: http://bit. ly/3al8ey6
Continued from Page 1 prior to February 15 for the rate change to take effect the following year. Ms. Mueller noted the rate of compensation is established for the office of Tax Collector, not for an individual. It was also noted by council members that the increase borough property
values has resulted in an increase in compensation for the tax collector. Councilman Heckmann motioned to increase the rate to the requested 3.5 percent, but failed to gain a second on his motion. The compensation rate for the Tax Collector will remain at 2.5 percent through 2022.
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THE SOUTH PITTSBURGH REPORTER
S.S. Forum discusses fire, Zone commander and Esser plaza lights Continued from Page 1 and more. In questions-and-answers, Mr. Bucklaw said bike officers are a good evening resource, especially for the 1-3 blocks off Carson St. He also said “lesser” crimes, like noise issues, should not be ignored. The commander said unacceptable behavior, like vomiting on sidewalks and noise at night, should not be tolerated. “The South Side is a neighborhood,” he said. Mike Clark, of the SSCC, cited the problem of ATVs on Carson St. and the back streets. He also wants visitors to the trail and South Side Park “to feel safe.” House parties with college students can also be disruptive, he said, and hopes there will be written reports by police with the names of the offenders so their universities can get involved. Ms. Rudiak said the SSCC’s South Watch has worked very well the past three years with police and Duquesne University. The written reports of disturbances have been very effective, she said, especially when Commander Dixon contacted Duquesne and the Pitt police. “It is a quality-of-life issue,” she said. Commander Fisher said another effective tool regarding disruptive properties is the Disruptive Properties list in which legal action is taken once a property receives numerous complaints. He said if you call 911 for a problem and are not happy with the response, you should call back to talk with a supervisor. He concluded by stating if he cannot attend every community meeting, he will send someone in his place. Next, Kitty Vagley spoke about the Esser’s Plaza renovation project. It began almost 10 years ago with $50,000 handed over to the SSCC from the defunct South Side Local Develop-
ment Company for the project. Fundraising and grants followed until, today, the project has $175,000. The estimated cost is $330,000. A $115,000 request to the state Dept. of Community and Economic Development’s greenways funding is under review. Ms. Vagley asked if the Planning Forum would donate $20,000 for lighting. After interim chair Tom Smith told her the Planning Forum does not have money to donate, city Councilman Bruce Kraus said he told her to make the request as there are strict guidelines on how to use PED funds. 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. He said he would like to use $15,000 from PED funds, and have discussion on the matter at the Planning Forum to foster an open PED process. He said he was only there to be transparent and not for Planning Forum support. He and city nighttime economy coordinator Allison Harnden said lighting for Esser’s Plaza would constitute a safety issue. Mr. Kraus said Block by Block, the two-person Clean Team which maintains the E. Carson St. corridor and is paid through PED funds, has one less worker from Jan. 13 through March 31, resulting in a savings of about $13,500. The savings can be used for the lighting, he said. Ms. Harnden also reported the PED fund balance will rise to about $300,000 this month, so funding is available. “I think the lighting is more than an aesthetic thing – it is for safety. “I think it’s a good idea,” she said.
Mr. Kraus said his plan is to start at $15,000 and try to get the other $5,000 from someone or a group. Next, in the PED update, Ms. Harnden reported revenue for January, 2021, totaled $6,599.30. The total revenue since the PED began in 2017 is $685,398. The two alcohol license changes are: a new brewery license application for Smiling Moose, 1306 East Carson St., which currently is an “R” licensed business; and a “return from safekeeping” for the Polish Falcons Gymnastics & Literary Association, 60 S. 18th St. The Polish Falcons had been totally shut down due to COVID. Ms. Harnden said while the Clean Team operated with its two employees for only half of January, it was a busy month. During January, the team removed 5,800 pounds of trash. They also removed 35 graffiti/stickers, and lent hospitality assistance eight times. There was a 14 percent increase in trash collected from December to January. There was also a 25 percent increase in graffiti tags. Next, on the East Carson St. construction project update, Mr. Kraus reported the overall completion date for the project is spring, 2022. The $16.31 million project includes milling and resurfacing, signage and signal upgrades, concrete pavement patching, drainage, guide rail, ADA ramps, curb and sidewalk, pavement markings and other construction along the 2.5 mile stretch of East Carson St. between the Smithfield Street Bridge and 33rd Street. Pedestrian enhancement accommodations, including bump-outs, high visibility crosswalks, and pedestrian countdown signals, will also occur. According to the latest Penn DOT update, singlelane restrictions will continue on East Carson St. be-
tween Arlington Ave. and 22nd St. weekdays from 7:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. through late August. Traffic will be maintained in each direction throughout the work zone, and parking spaces may temporarily be blocked in various locations, as needed, while work occurs. Also, through late August, parking and sidewalk restrictions will remain on East Carson St. between Fifth and 22nd streets, and will continue around-the-clock while crews install ADA ramps, curbs, sidewalks, drainage structures and pedestrian crosswalk pole foundations, along with associated electrical work. In mid-spring, crews will begin work to install median areas and curbs, replace sidewalks and curbs along with associated drainage work, installing new signal heads and rewire at various intersections. Next, in the update of DAMs, Ms. Rudiak said the SSCC recently reviewed two proposals that are headed to the Historic Review Commission. A DAM, or Development Activities Meeting, 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. The two presentations at the Jan. 21 DAM were: to move the ATM closer to the Dollar Bank entrance; and for signage at the former Coen Market in the 2400 block of East Carson St. The latter project may also need to appear before the Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA). The next DAM will be at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 25, during which three projects will be presented: Phase 3 of the Riverside Mews; the installation of a garage and door to the rear of 2009 East Carson St.; and the interior renovation of the first floor of 1321 East Carson St. to create a residential entry to the second and third floors. In the South Side Neighborhood Plan update, Mr. Smith reported the committee met with City Planning on the procedure for a new neighborhood plan. The consensus was it should be a plan for all of the South Side, meaning, the Flats and Slopes. City Planning crafted a standardized process that takes 18 to 24 months, and includes an involved pub-
lic process. Mr. Smith said City Planning recommends in addition to a volunteer committee, that some professionals be hired for all of the data gathering and analysis. Ms. Rudiak said city planner Anthony Kobak suggested committee members start thinking about “What are the neighborhood needs?” “It can sound daunting, but it is teamwork,” Mr. Kobak said. In reports, Ms. Rudiak said the SSCC developed a survey on the organization’s last five years that asks questions like: Should we continue with what we have done? Other ideas to move forward? Ms. Rudiak said the responses will also help in thinking about the neighborhood plan. In Chamber updates, Mr. Bucklaw said with COVID closures, and now the fire, “our membership has been suffering over the last year.” The annual summer golf classic, and Mittens & Mingles, were cancelled. The an-
nual South Side Soup Contest has been postponed. The latter especially hurt The Brashear Association, he said, as it is a fundraiser for their food pantry. The new campaign is entitled, “It’s not just about the soup.” In the UPMC report, Lynn Kurhan reported UPMC continues to administer COVID-19 Phase 1A vaccines at the UPMC South Side ambulatory center at 2000 Mary St. When Governor Wolf authorizes it, and UPMC has access to the vaccine, UPMC will administer the vaccines for Group 1B, which includes people in congregate settings not otherwise specified as long-term care facilities, persons receiving home and community-based services, and others as specified in the group. COVID-19 testing driveup service continues at the old UPMC urgent care center and in the UPMC employees’ parking lot at S. 21st and Josephine streets. The next Planning Forum meeting will be on March 9.
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Apply now for the city Civic Leadership Academy spring class Applications are now open for Pittsburgh’s Spring 2021 Civic Leadership Academy (CLA). CLA is a free 11-week course where participants learn about city operations, services and resources from leaders of city departments, offices, bureaus and authorities. The course encourages more informed, effective and inspired community and
civic leadership by giving city residents an opportunity to understand and engage with their local government. The program is held twice per year and applications are open to individuals over age 18 who live in, or own and operate a business in, the City of Pittsburgh limits. The Spring 2021 session will be held virtually via Zoom every Wednes-
day, April 14 – June 23, from 6:00-8:30 p.m. Applications are due March 10 at midnight. Learn more about the Civic Leadership Academy at pittsburghpa.gov/oca/ cla and apply at applycla. pittsburghpa.gov. Residents are encouraged to view recordings of the most recent sessions of virtual Civic Leadership Academy on YouTube at http://bit. ly/3bkPka7
To receive notification this program should contact man at hillary.roman@pittsof future opportunities with the City of Pittsburgh ADA burghpa.gov or by calling the Civic Leadership Acad- Coordinator Hillary Ro- 412-255-2102 int. 457. emy and other programs and news from the Office of Community Affairs and the City of Pittsburgh, sign up for the monthly community newsletter: newsletter. pittsburghpa.gov. Anyone who requires an accommodation for effective communication or a modification of policies or procedures to participate in
Marketing workshop is for Mt. O., Knoxville businesses Abiding Missions warming MT. OLIVER DENTAL PAVILION The presentation is open The Mt. Oliver Downcenter open when 28 degrees 412.431.0232 2Business Series will pres- to Mt. Oliver and Knoxville 145 Brownsville Road, Pgh., PA 15210
ent Social Media Marketing + Your Business on February 24 at 9 a.m. Featured speaker for the presentation will be Jared Roberts, owner of Right Brain + Left Brain. He will discuss how the corporate use of social media is no different from any other marketing project or strategic initiative. This session will provide a starting point for understanding what resources are available and how they can impact an organization. Attendees will be exposed to real-world examples and walk away with ideas to help establish or improve their social media presence.
businesses only. A limited number of in-person tickets are available, with virtual streaming also available. Register online at: D2Bsocialmedia.eventbrite.com. The Mt. Oliver Down2Business Series provides access to topics facing small business owners. With a mix of workshops and technical expertise sessions, business owners will learn from industry professionals and gain the latest skills. Business owners who attend the workshop can get access to 30 minutes of free technical assistance and advice one-on-one with the professionals.
URA warns of scam targeting local Pittsburgh homeowners The Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh (URA) is warning local homeowners of a national mortgage insurance scam that is currently targeting City of Pittsburgh residents. “On or around February 8, one of our homeowners alerted us that she received a pink postcard which appeared to be from the URA requesting her to call us regarding her recent mortgage closure,” said Jessica Smith Perry, URA director of residential and consumer lending. “This is a scam and is in no way authorized by or affiliated with the URA.” URA staff did a preliminary investigation and discovered it is a national scam related to mortgage insurance and has an automat-
ed system when calling the phone number. The URA will never send postcards to homeowners to request a call about their mortgage; all communication from the URA will include its official logo and/or letterhead. The URA will be sending out an official letter and email to homeowners having a mortgage with the agency alerting them of the scam. The URA is advising that anyone receiving one of these postcards should not call the number provided and discard the postcard. Homeowners who have questions may call the URA at 412255-6696. Local authorities have been contacted and are conducting an investigation.
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Abiding Missions in Allentown will open its Warming Center from 7 a.m.-3 p.m. on days when the temperature drops to 28 degrees and colder. The Warming Center provides a warm, safe place with low drama along with
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