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. 


2 comments:

  1. Natural properties like the parks, lakes and rivers should be kept open to the public as they feel free to visit them. In the same way Enright Park should be left to the public use as it creates enthusiasm among the morning walkers especially the old. Many walkers got the promo code for Writers Per Hour to walk in the park both mornings and evenings.

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