Friday, July 17, 2009

Details on Land Deal Slowly Trickling Out

A casual glance at this week's City Paper story about the Mayor's board appointments makes it look like a rehash of what we've been discussing -- but don't be so casual:

Lestitian says there was considerable pressure to support the land sale long before she was removed. Twice in May 2008, she says, she met with officials supporting the deal: Ravenstahl and Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato, as well as officials from the two teams and Continental. Team officials threatened to sue the authority if their development rights were not extended, she says -- and they promised to put her "on the podium with us" at the groundbreaking ceremony. (The Steelers and the Pirates did not return phone calls for comment.)

Lestitian didn't change her mind, but says another board member -- state Rep. Jake Wheatley -- did.

Lestitian says that all the way up until the vote, Wheatley "both publicly and privately was telling me, 'I'm with the chair'" -- with Lestitian herself. But on Aug. 7, the Hill District Democrat voted in favor of the plan.

"He flipped his vote," Lestitian says. "I would like to know why."

Wheatley did receive a $5,000 campaign contribution from Onorato's campaign on April 17 that year -- less than a week before the spring primary, and the first time Onorato had contributed to Wheatley. But Wheatley contends "Dan never asked me to vote any way on that deal."

"Dan wanted to see Jake get re-elected, period," agrees Oren Shur, Onorato's campaign spokesperson.

Kevin Evanto, another Onorato spokesperson, denies Lestitian's claim that Onorato came to meetings to pressure board members. "He did not intervene" in Stadium Authority discussions at all, he says. (C-P, Chris Young)

Newman! I mean ... Chris Young!

Real quick: if Onorato was that terribly interested in ensuring Wheatley's reelection, wouldn't the contribution have arrived earlier than a week before the election? Early money is like yeast. It's nice to be able to budget things out.

More importantly: notice how the claim made by Onorato's spokesperson in the last paragraph conflicts with what Lestitian tells us in the first paragraph. And notice how the denial was broad and flat: "He did not intervene". Couldn't he have gotten away with, "Sure, he might have sat in on a discussion or two, this is a hugely important development, it's not unusual for our region's leaders to keep one another one the same page"?

I suppose the next question would be what if anything else was discussed during those alleged meetings between Stadium Authority board members, the Steelers, the Pirates, Continental, the Mayor and the County Executive -- and whether any of those folks ever suggested performing a simple property assessment appraisal to figure out how much the dag'gum land was actually worth.


  1. Face the facts on a grand scale.

    Authorities are great tools for blowing and making smoke. We should aim to end all authorities. Along the way, let's make certain that the authority board members have RETENTION VOTES to retain their appointments -- providing a hint of accountability -- we're screwed.

  2. Can one of you guys who do nothing but complaint tell me what you would rather see built on the North Shore? In doing so, please provide at some attempt to explain how it gets financed.

  3. The North Shore? You mean to tell me that the property over there wasn't worth BIG BUCKS?

    You mean to tell me with the Stadiums, the Casino, the Science Center, that any entrepreneurial sort could not have found the value in the property and location and made money GIVEN THE CHANCE? Finance my ass.

  4. Point proven, you haven't provided any solutions or idea, just complaining.

  5. Quality Investment on Northside = ANYTHING that benefits the taxpayers of the region MORE than a 25% of the time...

    How many games are played at Heinz field?

    How many games at PNC Park?

    How many concerts at the "NEW" Ampitheatre ?

    NOW FOR THE BIG QUESTION - How many FULL TIME jobs did the above create?

    How about creating REAL full time jobs with quality benefits, that people from the community, City of Pittsburgh, and Allegheny County are eligible for...

    (How many of us are capable of walking onto the Steelers roster? This argument may be moot regarding the Pirates though)

    How about investing in SOMETHING-ANYTHING that will increase the need for OTHER BUSINESSES? (other than beer sales, parking lots, and t shirt sales)

    And finally build something that more than the Steelers, Pirates, Rooneys, and Continental Development PROFIT FROM... .

    But then as a taxpayer who is funding a major portion of the projects on the "NORTH SHORE" I guess the HUDDLER is just whining?

  6. In doing so, please provide at some attempt to explain how it gets financed.

    Anon 9:53-

    I hope you are not suggesting that the Pittsburgh Steelers, Continental, or even the business entity that calls itself the Pittsburgh Pirates are struggling financially. Are you claiming that they are unable to privately fund the development of the north shore without the "sale" of public riverfront land for 1/10 of its value?

  7. Again, I am asking what you would rather see on the North Shore as opposed to what is being proposed. This is a very simple question that you can't seem to answer. Here, let me ask it again: WHAT DO YOU WANT TO SEE ON THE NORTH SHORE? If you can answer that question, please provide even a basic explanation of how it gets financed. After you do that I will answer your questions.

    P.S. - after the league made Dan Rooney buy out his brothers the Steelers took on significant debt, so actually, yes, they are not in a financial position to cash flow millions of dollars.

  8. If the Steelers and Pirates would put on some plays and musicals, then they'd be worthy of gubmint subsidies. Until then, let them pass the hat at the games.

    I want a Tesla factory and all support facilities built on all the surface parking lots on the north shore. Give them the land at one tenth the market value, or better yet, have the city take the land and hand it over to the company for free, supply them with duquesne club memberships and throw in some "walking around" money so they tip well at all the new south indian restaurants.

    Then we'll push the sports teams out of the city and into the north hills and let the college and high school teams use the stadiums, so long as the boosters pay for utilities.

    And finally we'll replace the statue of the Chief with a statue of Frick pissing on Carnegie who in turn is pissing on a raised relief of Pittsburgh - with cherubs of course, because a fountain without cherubs just don't cut ice.

  9. Anon 9:53 etc - You should know by now that on many occasions I have floated the notion that development on the southern edge of the North Side should be at least in part geared towards relatively nearby residents, e.g. Eat n' Park, T.J. Max, Kuhn's, as well as lots parceled out for small businesses. As to how that would all get financed, that's not my forte but I don't see why it couldn't take advantage of the same funding streams that current development is using: Gov. Rendell.

    However, what we're talking about isn't what I would prefer, it's what N.U. and the rest of the nearby taxpaying neighborhood residents would prefer. There is here again a refusal to acknowledge that their preferences should to any extent be important to development occurring within a third of a mile of their homes, and that's awful.

    As to what they want: at every meeting and hearing, they've made a point to NOT oppose this amphitheater or any specific development in the mix. What they want is some mix of concessions made to the public well-being and some concrete benefit to come in tandem with all this heavily subsidized and discounted development. You should meet with them and discuss options over time, maybe after a while you'll come to an AGREEMENT and the whole neighborhood will improve.

    Finally, you blame us for "doing nothing but complaining" because we do not agree with the current vision that is manifesting. Aside from the fact that that's loaded incumbent-speak, what I wonder is: is it your contention that a heavily subsidized amphitheater in that area is such a phenomenal idea that no better alternatives were possible?

    And why was no property assessment conducted? Did it never occur to anybody, before this huge sale?

  10. NU does NOT speak for the neighboring tax paying communities and residents. In fact, the vast majority of neighboring tax paying residents are opposed to NU and what it is doing. If you actually got out in the neighborhoods you would know that, but hey, why should we expect good journalism? NU represents about 30 people. A Kuhns or Eat N Park? Are you kidding me?

  11. The one Planning Commission meeting on the North Shore Master Plan that I was able to attend drew well over 100 and much closer to 200. On a Tuesday afternoon. Downtown. In unanimous opposition to the development proceeding a la carte.

    No I'm not kidding you.

  12. Wow! Yunz a are gabby...

    Not really sure where 'The Huddler' stands...

    Thought he was mocking, satirizing events that lead to arrest of Paradise Gray...called the arrested protesters hero(s). Hence my ambiguous responses that caused Bram to fiddle…

    After taking Bram to task for saying he was 'Pearl Harbored' by Councils decision to not 'vet' appointees to various boards(no respect for war dead)...

    ...The Huddler calls Parasite Gray and the 'exploited young black protesters…’Hero(s)?

    Parody perhaps...on all sides...

    Anyone have a long handled 9 iron..?

  13. First of all, sell the stadiums to the teams. The teams should own their ball parks.

    Next, put in tall condo / time share buildings for residents. Picture Trimont on Mt. Washington done in 5 different buildings, each with a blend of parking, utility, decks / levels, a elevated bike ways, tiny retail, commercial to residential as the owner sees fit. Top of building recreation: pools / racket sports / fitness / dog runs / community sports squeezed on edges.

    I've lived in complex like this in Chengdu & Beijing, China. Want photos?

    The Golden / Glass Cathedral was another major concept for the N.Side that the Rooney folks fumbled. It won a prize or two as well for design and multi-purpose.

    Another major concept is the building of Pedestrian Bridge(s) like Prague's St. Charles or even Millennium B in London (twisted in the Death Eater rage in HP).

  14. NU may not speak for all of North Side, but it does speak for many who are in close proximity to the development, is that not true?
    If NU does not speak for all of North Side then where are people who do not agree? Are they apathetic like the voters in Pittsburgh who, by default and apathy, allow the election of officials that do not necessarily speak for Pittsburgh?

  15. Bram, Onorato has held a firm line on re-assessments ever since he was elected. The North Shore land was assessed back in 1983. What could have changed? Are you questioning the fairness of Onorato's assessment freezing???

  16. The property needs to be appraised by a licensed appraiser.

  17. Complaining?

    If this was going on in YOUR neighborhood, I am sure you would be too.

    I think as bloggers and residents in the community, we are just looking out for those folks on the Northshore and the Northside who are getting screwed in yet another tax handout to big developers and big corporations who are screwing the little guy and taxpayers.

    What I don't understand is what is so hard to understand about these projects?! And WHY aren't YOU angry?

    For instance, the Steeler's Ampi--millions of Taxpayers' dollars just given to them for the selling of the land when clearly it is worth much much more, and they will receive even more of OUR MONEY to develop the land.

    This is an organization (the steelers) who is already worth millions, given millions in tax breaks, was built a brand new stadium by the taxpayers, and now given even more money by the taxpayers without ANY accountability to the neighborhood it is moving in to--Parking; Noise Control; Crowd Control (especially in neighborhoods in suprrounding communities); Public Intoxication/Urination; Crime; Laser/Light Shows; Disruptions during the day/evening and what the neighborhood should expect; Jobs; What Heinz would give back to the community in exchange for taxpayer dollars/disruption of public.

    Do you not think the neighborhood deserves these things and should have it in writing? Why should it be sooooo hard to meet with Continental Development and the Rooneys? Why are they not even making any kind of good faith effort to sign a CBA for the community?

    When WPXI moved from their previous location to Evergreen Road, they had numerous public meetings at many local community groups and explained clearly what their intentions were.

    As part of their neighborliness, they agreed not to fly their helicopter from 9pm?-6am (and you know WPXI goes bananas with their heli) unless it was a super duper mega story, and they did several fly overs to show how quiet/unobtrusive to the neighbors' lives the heli would be.

    I think this is one good example of what a good neighbor can do.

    The Ampi? It's bad, it's unforgivable, and it smells.

  18. And as far as NU not representing the Northside . . . that was said about One Hill up and including the day the CBA was signed.

  19. Illyrias & Anon 4:51 - Thanks for making it clear that I got "appraisals" and "assessments" mixed up. Appraisals are what an owner or 3rd party does to figure out how much land SHOULD be worth or can be sold for, while assessments are what a governing body does to assign a tax value. Both are overdue, but of course I was talking about the former.

    Lady Elaine - Yup.

  20. Want to see the future that 'Paradise (Parasite) Gray' and his Ilk have to offer...

    Visit Detroit...I hear the Neighborhoods there are spectacular...

    They await you with open arms and empty pockets, Lady Elaien.

    Quit wasting your time...yunz are speed bumps on path to progress.

    Not a single soul has lost their home to North-Shore development...

    The Rooney's and Steelers helped make Pittsburgh recognizable, not forgettable.

    Yunz want to wha, wha, wha and boo-hoo-hoo...for the sake of being heard.

    Find a real cause, instead of misguided camaraderie...look elsewhere!

    Join the NAVY!

  21. Sorry, Guys and Lady E.

    ...just role playing, Devil's Advocate.

    Money wins...Residents of Alpark Terrace (The Citys Oldest Mobile Home Community) accept the truth...

    We lost homes while you quibble...and while ZBA picks their noses...

    Talk about a transcript from ZBA CASE # 109-09...

    All together, now...pucker-up and kiss my ***

  22. Stanley A. Lowe....Someone who I met and retain a positive impression of...Northside Guy....

    Anyone care to make a wager if he knows 'Parasite' Gray...and others in power.

    From the Trib:

    'A McKees Rocks man has been arrested as a suspect in the abduction, stabbing and robbery of a prominent Manchester preservationist who was once director of the Pittsburgh Housing Authority.

    Pittsburgh Police charged Matthew Frazier, 32, after Stanley A. Lowe, 59, picked him out of a photo lineup, according to the arrest affidavit.

    Frazier is charged with kidnapping, attempted homicide, aggravated assault, burglary, robbery, robbery of a motor vehicle, criminal conspiracy and ATM fraud. Lowe told police that he had known Frazier for about six months through the Labor Ready work program."

    What is the 'Labor Ready" work program? Felons in City's Public Works Department?

    Stanly A. Lowe, a one time City Employee...deserved better...

  23. Monk,
    Although I sympathize with your dilemna, was there taxpayer money subsidizing, involved with the purchase of the property where your trailer sits? If so, then maybe they ought to have found a parcel(s) of land that the Alpark Terrace citizens could move their trailers.

  24. U just can't move the trailer over to the North Side land in question because that has already been allocated to people who didn't the subsidy.

  25. Anon: 6:53

    Alpark Terrace was bought by the International Union of Boilermakers local 154...

    Under the 'Davis Bacon Act' they receive "prevailing wages on all projects funded with Federal Dollars. (Including Obama Stimulus Money)

    It amounts to a non-competitive clause...low bidder need not apply.

    The same dollars (Your Tax-Dollar$) that are bailing out banks... are subsidizing golf trips for Union Management...

    Obama's way of paying off the white guys that spent millions in Union Dues to put him in White House...

    Unions, banks, corporations...democrats, all belly up to the public trough...

    Rooney's and North Shore interests...would have been obligated to compensate those that lost homes before development was considered...if federal dollars were involved.

    Local 154 said at a ZBA Hearing ( Case # 109-09) that if they wanted to, they could have evicted residents after 30 days.

    You see Local 154 is looking after the little guys.. residents got 6 months to vacate.

    Say UNION YES!…and you are talking government contracts funded by taxpayer dollars

  26. Some points for Monk:

    Paradise Gray is not one of NU's ringleaders. He was described to me as someone who basically hangs around in back and takes pictures to post to the web -- much like me -- only he got a little hot under the collar when somebody inside the building tried to force the protesters through the revolving door. Most news orgs got it wrong, he was not among the four engaged in the sit-in itself. So you might want to find another bogeyman to use when you feel it's time to characterize ilk.

    Secondly, the original Stadium Proposal (h/t Null Space) which begat the Stadium Authority which begat this "North Shore" development cited the benefit of "clearing the slums" -- so along with still more displacement at the hands of others for Rt. 65, the Vets Bridge and Allegheny Center, displacement is endemic to much of this.

    Thirdly, your "no displacement" litmus test is bogus anyway -- the citizens which government serves and which provide the capital for subsidies deserve greater consideration than a mere right to remain in their homes whilst everything around those homes is changed to their disliking by government and by those subsidies.

    Fourth, I was at ZBA case #109-09, friend. The law, though not kind to tenants, is not on your side and no other outcome was possible -- had the ZBA done anything else, the Boilermakers would have won on appeal. Property owners get to alter the use on their property from residential to something else, so long as they give 6 months notice to tenants (which they did) and so long as there are no significant hardships to neighbors (of which there were none). Meanwhile, you raised zero arguments on your own behalf and requested no delay, so there can be no "rush to judgment" alleged. Are you going to let the experience embitter you against anybody petitioning their government for any reason in the future, because you yourself received an untoward outcome?

  27. Yes, it is true, Monk. Paradise was trying to protect Rachel Canning I hear from getting hurt and instead was seen as disruptive, which is laughable, since he has never been arrested! All those times he has been at the aftermath of shootings, being the voice of reason and at this planned sit-in, he is now seen as an aggressor. What crap.

    I totally agree Monk with a lot of your points, with economic development and some of it is a necessary evil. Without the Rooney's, what would Pittsburgh be? What would Pittsburgh be with out Heinz, DelMonte, our hospitals, PPG, American Eagle, Dicks, Westinghouse, our steel industries, US Airways, do you see where I am going with this?

    There are some who are loyal to Pittsburgh and the community, and there are others who take the taxes and subsidies, and say f off and after so much screw us and the community and leave.

    So a CBA provides us with an insurance policy. A just in case you screw us.