Friday, May 19, 2017

Please Support the Work of the Enright Park Coalition!

For several years, a coalition of neighborhood organizations, including Enright Park Neighborhood Association (EPNA), Friendship Community Group (FCG), Bloomfield Garfield Corporation (BGC), and East Liberty Development, Inc. (ELDI) have been working collaboratively to advance community-driven vision for development in our neighborhoods.

Most recently, this coalition has been working tirelessly to advocate for community involvement in the proposed redevelopment of the affordable Penn Plaza apartments and the adjacent publicly-owned 2.28 acre Enright Parklet. This development would have transformed the two sites into luxury apartments, offices, retail, and a new 50,000 square foot Whole Foods, while creating a new park configuration that would destroy the park’s existing tree canopy and reduce its size and recreational function.

This advocacy culminated in the Planning Commission’s January 2017 vote to reject LG Realty’s proposed redevelopment plan of the two sites. In rejecting the proposed plan, the Planning Commission cited multiple failures to comply with standards set forth in the Pittsburgh Zoning Code. The developer is now appealing the decision of the Planning Commission in court.

Because of both the critical importance of these sites in our neighborhoods and the impact that the development will have on all residents, the community coalition has hired a legal team and has been granted status as intervenors in the various lawsuits that are pending. We have a seat at the table and from there we continue to advocate for community-driven solutions. The neighborhood groups have formalized their commitment to work together on this issue in a written agreement that establishes the Enright Park Coalition.

But there are costs to be borne. We need to pay our legal bills, and we want to make sure that we have funds set aside for the next time this type of advocacy is called for.

Please consider a contribution to the Enright Park Coalition’s Planning and Legal Fund today. All contributions are tax deductible, and will go towards legal costs that support efforts to advance community-driven planning in East Liberty, Friendship, Bloomfield, and Garfield.  The Friendship Community Group, a 501(c)(3) organization, will receive and hold these funds on behalf of the Coalition. 

There are three ways to donate:

You can donate via the Facebook fundraiser! Help us meet our $5,000 goal by donating via Facebook, and share it with your friends. 

You can donate via PayPal by sending donation amounts to Please indicate in the "note" that the payment is a contribution to the Planning & Legal Fund.

Finally, if you prefer, donations can be mailed in check form to: Friendship Community Group, PO Box 9180, Pittsburgh, PA 15224. Please indicate that the contribution is to the Planning & Legal Fund. 

Thank you!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Community Garden Reset 2017

As noted before, 2017 is a year of reinvention in the garden. Without Whole Foods' support, we have been scrambling to restructure and identify new resources. We are working on a long-term plan for the garden, including how to sustain it, and we want everyone in the community to be part of it.

To date, we have been awarded a Love Your [Resilient] Block grant from the City and received a Small Potatoes award from Grow Pittsburgh to support soil testing for our beds.

Most importantly, we need some hands and people to commit to helping us reinvent the space and how we will manage it!

Please join us this Saturday between 10 am and 12 pm for clean-up! Staff from Grow Pittsburgh will be there at 10 am to help us take soil samples for testing. 

And starting on Monday, May 8, Repair the World will be kicking on their bi-weekly garden volunteer nights from 6 - 8 pm. 

Here are some pictures from our work day earlier this month. Big thanks to Repair the World and Kentucky Avenue School for rallying the teams!

Rebuilding the bed that got run over by a stray car... (see 2015 season)

Kentucky Avenue School family and friends clear out the future pumpkin & squash beds.

Repair the World team in action.

Watering the transplants.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Welcome to the 2017 Growing Season!

As we cast off the remains of winter (we hope) it's time to start planning the 2017 growing season in Enright Community Garden.

This year, we have been awarded a Love Your [Resilient] Block grant from the City of Pittsburgh to help us upgrade the garden, and to plan for a sustainable future. As you may remember, Whole Foods is no longer a sponsor for our garden, which means that we will be relying solely on volunteer management and labor to support it. However, we have a great team in place, which includes our neighbors, the Kentucky Avenue School, and Repair the World. In the fall, over 50 people turned out on a chilly but sunny Sunday to put the garden to bed for the year.

We are kicking off our 2017 season with a Garden Clean-Up and Planning Session on Sunday, April 9 from 10 AM to 2 PM. 

Come out and help us clean, build, and plan for a new season at Enright Community Garden!

Together with our partners at the Kentucky Avenue School and Repair the World, we are launching a new season. With a Love Your [Resilient] Block grant from the City of Pittsburgh, we will be repairing and remodeling in the garden to create a more sustainable model of a truly communal garden that is open to all our community members.

Projects that are in the works for this year:
  • New raised beds
  • A communal approach to gardening
  • A community bulletin board and lending library
  • Repairs to rain barrels and other infrastructure
  • More organization and communication! Become part of the planning team and help us to develop programs to host in the garden!
  • More fun!
Rain Date: Sunday, April 23 from 10 AM - 2 PM.

Keep an eye on the garden's Facebook page and the neighborhood Twitter account for more details and updates!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

A Much Belated Update.

Many apologies for not posting updates in the past month. It was a whirlwind, both in the community and in personal lives, and continues to be one.

On Tuesday, January 10, the Planning Commission unanimously voted to DENY approval of LG Realty's Preliminary Land Development Plan. This approval was required for them to move forward with their proposal to reconfigure the public park and their site to accommodate a new 50,000 s.f. Whole Foods, 200 or so units of market rate housing, and about 600 parking spaces in a multi-story parking garage on the edge of the park.

The official transcript has not yet been made public, but among the concerns cited by Commissioners in their deliberations were:
  • Concerns for traffic and pedestrian access to the site in relation to the surrounding neighborhood
  • Lack of community engagement in the development and vetting of the PLDP
  • That the proposal does not "create a favorable environmental, social and economic impact on the City" [important! This is a direct quote from the Zoning Code for one of the criteria that Commission should use to review the proposal] 
  • That the proposal does not actually meet the criteria established by City Council in the zone change from April 2016, particularly in relation to the reconfiguration of the park. 
Here are some of the articles covering the hearing:

Tim Schooley in the Pittsburgh Business Times
Mark Belko in the Post-Gazette.
Bob Bauder in the Trib.
A piece on WPXI.

If you want to actually watch the discussion among the Commission, Jacquea Mae took live video of the hearing that you can view on Facebook. 

But of course...

LG Realty filed an appeal of the decision not a week later, before the official transcript had even been released. In their appeal, they claim that the decision was "unabashedly political". The process for the appeal is that it will go to conference before a judge in late February, with the parties then providing briefs to the judge within a time frame to be determined at the conference. There is no testimony taken. It could be three to six months before a final decision is rendered by the judge. And then there would be an opportunity for either party to appeal THAT decision, which could add another 1-2 years to the process.

However, in the meantime...

view from Negley

view from Negley

LG Realty decided to cut down all the trees on their property (NOT the park - they don't have legal access to it yet). 

fence work in starting...
not like we will have any more snow due to climate change, but the Enright Park sledding hill was well used

LG Realty is in the process of  putting up a fence to keep the community off of the small hill that sits adjacent to the park (and is their property) and has been used for decades as a sledding hill for the kids in the neighborhood. 

There was a brief interlude when we were all being encouraged to come together and work through the differences on the development. [Qualifier to this piece: the main contention of the community is that they are attempting to take public land, in the form of the park, to enhance their development, and yet have not met the standards that were established. As in much of the reporting on Penn Plaza and Enright Park, is sounds in this article as if the developer is only working on their own property and not receiving massive benefit from a reconfiguration of a public park. Our position remains that, if one is taking advantage of public assets, the public has the right and the responsibility to weigh in on the development above and beyond what might be required of a development solely on private property.]

notices appeared on the site Friday morning.
AND OF COURSE... LG Realty has filed ANOTHER claim and posted THESE notices on the fence surrounding the site. 

Essentially, they are claiming that because a WRITTEN decision of the Planning Commission has not been issued within the time frame cited, their project is "deemed approved" and they plan to move "full steam ahead". We should note that the actual Planning Commission vote DID occur within the time frame cited (although it's questionable as to whether or not that actually applies in this case), and that there is not a clear requirement that there be written decisions regardless. In the past, Planning Commission decisions were simply recorded into the transcript of the proceedings.

Interestingly, the same day that the notices appeared, the Post-Gazette published an article that extensively quotes their lawyer, Jonathan Kamin. 

Before the end of the day, the Mayor's Office had issued a strongly worded statement on the matter, stating “...planning commission explicitly denied Pennley Park’s application and development plan within the legal time period of the official submission. We will fight these legal tricks before the Common Pleas court.”

Thank you Mayor Peduto for assuring East Liberty, and other neighborhoods that are facing developer pressures, that you stand with Planning Commission and support their decisions!


What's Next, you may ask?

We will keep you posted about the developments. In the meantime:
  • Check out the gorgeous image and words that artist Vanessa German created at Penn Plaza a few weeks ago
  • The images and discussion from the inspiring Our Feminism Must Be Intersectional march that was held on January 21, which started at Penn Plaza. 
  • And PLEASE take a moment to read the Love Notes to East Liberty that were posted on the Penn Plaza fence as part of that event. Thank you Rachel Nunes for taking such care to document them. They were, not surprisingly, removed by building management a few days later.
Things may be moving too fast to get onto the website for a little bit, but please follow along on Facebook and on Twitter!

(And we promise to post with information not related to the park soon! Good things coming to the Enright Community Garden this year. Stay tuned in order to get involved!)

Monday, January 2, 2017

New Year's Resolutions: If It's Not for All, It's Not for Us!

Join Us in Making it Known – 

We are a #NeighborhoodforAll #EastLibertyforAll 

Thank you to everyone who came out to the community meeting on Monday, December 12 and the Planning Commission on Tuesday, December 13. We know it has been whiplash for many people who are just now becoming aware of the full scope of the developer’s proposals for East Liberty.

What we all heard loud and clear was that East Liberty needs affordable housing ON THIS SITE, and that East Liberty needs public open spaces that serve ALL community members. 

We can and we will have both of these. Affordable housing, public parks, and new development are not mutually exclusive.

Our message to the City, to the Planning Commission, and to the developers is this:
  1. Commit to affordable housing on Phase Two of the Pennley Place South development, at a minimum level of 20% of units for long-term affordability.*
  2. Deliver on the Council-conditioned Enright Park, which will “be of equivalent size and function of the existing park” and for which “there will be sufficient building setback along the eastern border of the park to protect and preserve the existing trees”.

Why Here?

Concentrations of wealth can be just as detrimental to the community fabric as concentrations of poverty. Creating residential enclaves that isolate residents from their neighbors through either physical design or social structure reduces interaction and our ability to empathize with those who are different than us. It is our intention to break down the barriers that were created by the 1960s “renewal”, not to create new ones in the gloss of 2016 design trends.

The value of the Penn Plaza and Enright Park sites to the community is that they have the potential to provide access to resources, including transit, economic opportunity, groceries, social amenities, and, yes, public open space, to our community members who are most in need of connection and stability, including seniors and those living with disabilities. Affordable housing on this site can make this vision of an #EastLibertyforAll a reality, and the public park can provide the platform for all community members to come together, regardless of age, race, gender, or social status.

The redevelopment of East Liberty in the 1960s that created the Penn Plaza and Enright Park sites took many years of planning and study, and still it created more problems than it addressed. Together, we need to take the steps necessary to ensure that we are not faced with a similar set of missteps in this redevelopment process.


Next Steps

Help us get the message out! We are stronger together and we must stand together to fight for #AffordableHousing and #PublicParks. 

Submit your letters supporting #AffordableHousing and #PublicParks in an #EastLibertyforAll to your elected officials and Planning Commission. ED: Please send your letters and comments to: prior to 12 pm Tuesday, January 10, 2017 to get them in the record of the hearing!

Most importantly, plan to attend upcoming community meetings, to be announced shortly, and attend the City’s Planning Commission meeting on Tuesday, January 10, 2017 at 2 pm. 

Please share this post to your social network and follow us on Facebook and Twitter. 

*ED 1/8/2017: Some ask "why a developer should be required to have affordable housing on their property?" Outside of the obvious, the reality is that this developer is using public land (the park) to benefit their development. They should therefore be providing benefit to the community at large. The bigger question is, why should WE, the tax paying public, allow a private developer to take apart a public park, destroy its environmental assets, and reconfigure it to their purposes without receiving significant benefit to our community.