Thursday, March 24, 2016

And then this happened.

About 1-1/2 hours after coming out of an afternoon spent in Council chambers, a press release buzzed into my phone from the Mayor's Office.

City Requires Enright Park To Stay Public
 East Liberty park will remain publicly-owned and subject to further public processes
 
PITTSBURGH, PA (March 22, 2016) The City of Pittsburgh directed the developers of Penn Plaza today to work with the Department of City Planning to work on agreements to protect Enright Park in East Liberty.

Under the City’s directions the park will remain publicly-owned rather than transferred to Pennley Park South, the developers of the adjacent site. The developers have agreed to pay for improvements to the park, and all improvements would be subject to a public process.

Any proposed changes to the configuration of the park would only come after a detailed public process as well, led by the Department of City Planning.   

"There is an opportunity for a better park and a better project,” Planning Director Ray Gastil said.

All the terms will be included in a written agreement between the City and Pennley Park South defining the process related to the park going forward. The proposed terms were discussed with the developer and several members of the community prior to today’s zoning hearing before City Council.

“At the end of this process, residents are going to have an Enright Park that is better than what is there presently,” said Kevin Acklin, chief-of-staff to Mayor William Peduto. “Just as we took care of the residents at Penn Plaza, we’ll take care of the park.”

Enright Park became part of the discussions with the developer related to City efforts to find housing for more than 200 Penn Plaza residents who faced evictions last summer to make way for the redevelopment of the area.

Two buildings at the Penn Plaza apartments in East Liberty are set to be demolished by Pennley Park South Inc. this year and next. Through an agreement with Mayor William Peduto, state Rep. Ed Gainey, City Councilman Rev. Ricky Burgess and other stakeholders, the owners agreed to offer relocation assistance to residents, and agreed to phase the development to allow residents more time to live in their apartments.

Through joint efforts among the City, the developer, the Penn Plaza tenant council and Neighborhood Allies, new homes have been found for all the residents in the first building at Penn Plaza. The next round of relocations will take place early next year.


This wasn't completely surprising - there was clear indication at the hearing from the Planning Director that the process to date had not addressed the community's concerns, and we had been told that the developers had been informed that the park would not be sold. And yes, we were the community members with whom "the proposed terms" had been discussed prior to the hearing. We just didn't realize at the time when or how they would formalized.

This is great news. This is fantastic news. THIS IS NOT THE END.

Someone asked yesterday if we felt that this was a victory. 

It is not a victory, as the end goal is not merely to preserve the park. But it is certainly a good step in the right direction. We remain gravely concerned about the eroding livability of East Liberty, via the loss of affordable housing and the displacement of residents (both physically and socially) who are being pushed further to the margins of our city. Preserving Enright Parklet as a public park and community hub is only one win in a much greater struggle to create a truly livable city for everyone.

We are looking forward to many productive discussions and dialogues. Please stay tuned. 


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Report from City Council Hearing

First, a heartfelt THANK YOU to everyone who reached out, sent letters, came to the hearing, spoke publicly, made your voices heard. It is amazing to feel part of a community that seeks to support the good and the just and the very best in communities.

About 20 people provided testimony at Council today, and NOT ONE of them spoke in support of the actual rezoning of the sites. Recurring themes included:
  • The need and desire for a housing strategy that will address both short term emergencies and a long-term strategy and ensure equitable access to transit, community services, and economic opportunities;
  • The need for public park spaces equivalent to (or greater than) the existing as a common ground and communal gathering place;
  • The need for an inclusive and comprehensive planning process that takes the deliberate time needed to develop such a vision.
It is clear that there is a true need for a collective and collaborative vision for these important gateway properties in East Liberty, one which supports affordable and market rate housing, neighborhood serving retail development that enhances a vision of community entrepreneurship, and public parks that serve as our collective living rooms and front porches.

After the hearing, we were pleased and surprised to read a public statement from the Mayor's Office that the City Requires Enright Park to Remain Public. This is an enormous step forward. We are cautiously optimistic that there can be a collaborative solution, but we are holding our breath a bit to see the proposed process for moving forward.

East Liberty is in the midst of a dramatic reinvention - we only have the blink of an eye to catch the reigns. Many feel that is is already too late, but others who call this community home hope that it is not too late to ensure equitable development and invest in our local talents and creativity to establish a vision for the future.

Please continue to make our voices heard by reaching out to members of Council and the Mayor's Office to let them know that we will be heard, and that we will be part of the future of this community. 

We will be ramping up further in the next few weeks with our messages and coordination. We are still all volunteer, so if you are interested in helping to spread the word and participate, please let us know. You can reach us at info@enrightpark.org.

We are also opening a press room for communications. You will be able to find press releases and media alerts about planning and development activities in East Liberty and throughout the East End here. Please stay tuned and stay informed.

And thank you. Thank you for caring about this community, and for the fate of your neighbors. If the past six months has taught us anything, it is that our community will always sustain us.



Monday, March 21, 2016

Sample Letter and Contact Information for City Council

This post will inevitably be linked to many times, and in many ways, but here is the complete list of contact information for members of City Council. Please write to them to let them know that the Penn Plaza - Enright Parklet site must have a community-driven master plan that defines a vision for livability that includes both affordable and market-rate housing, transit access, neighborhood-scaled retail, and, of course, a public park that serves all members of our community.

In addition, if you are at a loss for words, you can use this sample letter as a starting point for your correspondence. Please add your own voice and specific concerns that you have about the proposal.

Bruce A. Kraus, Councilman, City Council President, District 3
Email: bruce.kraus@pittsburghpa.gov
Tel. 412-255-2130

Darlene Harris, District 1
darlene.harris@pittsburghpa.gov
Tel. 412-255-2135

Theresa Kail-Smith, Councilwoman, District 2
theresa.kail-smith@pittsburghpa.gov
Tel. 412-255-8963

Natalia Rudiak, District 4
ashleigh.deemer@pittsburghpa.gov [Ashleigh Deemer Chief of Staff]
Tel. (412) 255-2131

Corey O’Connor, District 5
curt.conrad@pittsburghpa.gov  [Curt Conrad, Chief of Staff]
Tel. 412-255-8965

R. Daniel Lavelle, District 6
daniel.wood@pittsburghpa.gov  [Daniel Wood Chief of Staff]
Tel. 412-255-2134

Deborah Gross, District 7
District7@pittsburghpa.gov
Tel. 412-255-2140

Dan Gilman, District 8
erika.strassburger@pittsburghpa.gov [Erika Strassburger, Chief of Staff]
Tel. 412.255.2133

Rev. Ricky V. Burgess, District 9
reverend.burgess@pittsburghpa.gov
Tel. (412)-255-2137

Friday, March 18, 2016

Public Hearing at City Council on the Rezoning of the Park and Penn Plaza Sites

Public Hearing at City Council on the Rezoning of the Park and Penn Plaza Sites
·        There is a public hearing on Tuesday, March 22nd in City Council chambers (5th Floor, 414 Grant Street aka the City-County Building, Downtown Pittsburgh). This hearing is for the rezoning of the park and the Penn Plaza site from residential districts to a mixed-use commercial district. PLEASE come to make our voices heard at City Council. 

Sign-up to speak at the hearing here: http://pittsburghpa.gov/cityclerk/form/signup.php

The hearing is for Bills Number 2015-2300 and 2016-0033 for Enright Parklet. If you do not sign-up to speak, you will have one minute of time. If you sign-up, you will have 3 minutes (same as at Planning Commission)

Here are some key points to think about for preparing comments or writing to voice your opposition to the rezoning as proposed:

  • The second community meeting on the project was disappointing. LG Realty offered no specific plans for the overall project that contained any specific details as to building sizes, shapes or uses. The community repeatedly requested more information since the project first came to light in October. The "diagram" of potential green space was essentially identical to the plan submitted in October. The neighborhood gets a small green space; the developer gets a profit-driven "festival street" and an increased building footprint on the rest of the park. You can see more on the Facebook page here.
  • This lack of information about building form and uses stands in stark contrast to what we have seen provided to the Lawrenceville community by the Milhaus interests or, indeed, in any PLDP (Preliminary Land Development Plan) for recent projects that can be found posted on the web: Bakery Square, the Strip produce yards, and the Lower Hill. Why is Council being asked to approve a zone change with so little solid planning work behind it?
  • The zoning code requires that City Council receive a PLDP as a condition for considering a change of zoning to AP Planned Unit Development, as is the case with Enright Park and Penn Plaza. When we asked the Planning Director what would be submitted to Council (of the sketchy diagrams shown at Tuesday’s meeting) and when the submittal to Council would be available for public review, he indicated that he would get back to the community with this information. We have no further information, and we have nothing to provide comment on.
  • As a result, we believe that at both the hearing and at any subsequent Council vote in the near future, no meaningful project plan or plan for the future of Enright Park or the Penn Plaza development site will be made available to either the public or Council members. For this reason, we are asking that City Council either postpone action on this matter until such a plan is available or vote against the rezoning. 
East Liberty needs and deserves a master plan for this critical site that is both a gateway and a bridge between several communities. Until a plan has been developed in collaboration with the community, and properly vetted, there can be no rezoning of these properties. Our message is that City property is not for sale, that public parks are not meant to serve developers' interests, and that development in our neighborhoods has to be driven by the people who live in them, not by outside interests who look to profit from public lands.

Join the Enright Park Neighborhood Association Today!

It's official!

We have launched the Enright Park Neighborhood Association, founded to give voices to residents, business owners, organizations, and other community members adjacent to Enright Parklet a voice.

Being a member helps to build a forum for community dialogue, and a way to share information about what is happening in our community. And it helps us to build strength as our community questions the development that is being proposed without our input.

Our goals are to:

FOSTER community engagement in the planning and development process in our neighborhood
ENHANCE the livability of the neighborhood through collaborative processes
SUPPORT existing community members and the struggle to maintain affordability in the face of a changing East Liberty
COMMUNICATE information about what is happening in our neighborhood, East Liberty, and throughout the East End

Please become a member today by completing the membership form here. You don't live or work in the neighborhood? You can still become a Friend of Enright Park and support the community goals! Use the membership form to indicate your support.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Community Meeting on the Future of the Park!

PLEASE JOIN YOUR NEIGHBORS FOR AN UPDATE ON THE FUTURE OF ENRIGHT PARKLET!

 

WHEN: Tuesday, March 15, 2016 from 6 PM - 7:30 PM
WHERE: Community Room at East Liberty Place South, located at 5836 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh 15206

 

Join your friends and neighbors for an update on the planning efforts for Enright Parklet and the Penn Plaza redevelopment project. Community participation in this process is critical to its success and to the future of East Liberty’s public spaces!

Children are also welcome to this meeting. Community members will have activities for them.

This meeting is hosted by the Department of City Planning, City of Pittsburgh.
For more information, contact Justin Miller, senior planner, at justin.miller@pittsburghpa.gov.

For information about the efforts of the East Liberty community to preserve and improve Enright Parklet as a public asset, please check out the following:

TALK to us on the community blog: enrightpark.org
FOLLOW us on Twitter: @enrightpark
LIKE us on Facebook: Save Enright Parklet
VISIT Enright Parklet, located at the intersection of Eva Street and Amber Street in East Liberty. Bring your basketball, your bike, your picnic basket, or a good book!
QUESTIONS? info@enrightpark.org