Guest post by Shawn Carter
If you are a resident of Council District 7, the picture above represents the single largest issue that will have the single largest impact upon the future of where you call home.
It isn't about Luke Ravenstahl, he didn't seek re-election. Or Jack Wagner, because he isn't on the ballot, either. And for the time being, Bill Peduto, but we'll get back to him later in the story, because he earned the right to play an outsized role in this.
The only two names that matter, for the next 5 days, are Deborah Gross and Tony Ceoffe.
The picture you see above is an artist's rendition of what Central Lawrenceville could conceivably look like, in the future, according to the Allegheny Riverfront Vision Plan ("ARV"). Or, as Larryville natives call it, "the 9th Ward."
The ARV will change the Strip District and Lawrenceville, forever. The conversion of former industrial buildings into residential uses (Cork Factory and the Brake House Lofts) and a tremendous amount of new construction and renovation in Lower and Central Lawrenceville have ignited the real-estate market and turned Lawrenceville into the "it" neighborhood. Lawrenceville will no longer be a working-class neighborhood. It just won't. Developers are building $350,000 houses dahn on Hatfield Street, and they're ALL pre-sold. Row houses that were worth $40,000 just 10 years ago are now going for $160,000.
Many new faces have made their way to calling Lawrenceville their home. And Bloomfield. And Polish Hill. And the Strip District.
The working-class families who stayed in this neighborhood as it struggled to fight off crime and abandonment will sooner or later be displaced by better-educated, higher-earning younger homeowners. Normally when we hear about gentrification and displacement we think of the Hill District and East Liberty. The residents who will face displacement, however, don't look like the residents of the Hill.
This isn't a cultural conflict. The older residents in Polish Hill, Lawrenceville and Bloomfield enjoy watching these younger folks bring such vitality and stability to the neighborhoods they call home. Their only fear is being pushed out of the neighborhood.
ISSUE ONE: GENTRIFICATION
Widespread renovations of deteriorating houses and the construction of hundreds of new ones did far more than stabilize the housing market in these neighborhoods. It sent it on an upward trajectory that has no end in sight. Thousands of residents saw their assessments skyrocket, doubling or tripling their property tax bills because of their neighborhoods' renaissance. And many of them are low- and moderate-income homeowners, working-class folks, many of whom are now struggling to pay their property taxes. This includes senior citizens who saw the tax relief fought for by Patrick Dowd, wiped out in one fell swoop by court-ordered reassessment.
The only candidate to address this issue has been Tony Ceoffe.
Quoting this blog's author:
"Tony Ceoffe noted that affordable housing dovetails nicely with his recent work as a specialist at the Housing Authority, witnessing first-hand the effects on seniors of gentrification including transition to high-rises due to long waiting periods. else the care with which we must use Section 8 allocations, rather than doing it just to make the numbers work like at Doughboy Square, and the tragedy of pushing anybody out of their neighborhoods."
ISSUE TWO: "BOTTOM-UP" COMMUNITY REDEVELOPMENT
Lawrenceville is still a dense mix of residential, retail, commercial and industrial uses, and it doesn't come without its' share of problems. Rt. 28 reconstruction, 43rd St. Concrete, School Bus depots and an oil refinery create no shortage of heavy truck traffic up and down Butler Street.
Many years ago, Councilman Jim Ferlo, determined to help his constituents in Lawrenceville fight the neighborhood's downward spiral, started a small but scrappy community organization.
Through the sheer determination and hard work of its members and volunteers, Lawrenceville United has been at the forefront of rebuilding the neighborhood and making it safer.
To quote this blog's author again:
"Yes, it's true. Ceoffe more often emphasizes the roles that community groups can play as partners, next points of contact, go-betweens with government..."
They believe in bottom-up development and again, Tony Ceoffe has demonstrated an indefatigable dedication to his neighbors. So whether you live in Highland Park or the Strip or anywhere in between, I feel confident in saying you can trust Tony to work tirelessly to serve every resident in every neighborhood.
I would be remiss if I ignored Deb's background in community development, the arts, and many other things as well.
To be fair, I met Deb almost 9 years ago when I was a staffer on Bill Peduto's first campaign for Mayor. Before Matt Merriman-Preston, Bill Peduto had Deb Gross. Many of us who are still in this profession learned about the need to manage data and integrate it from Deb Gross. I have always had tremendous respect for her talents. She didn't know this, but simply watching her manage Peduto's data in 2005 did more to advance my career than anyone knows, including her.
1. Tony will never shy away from rolling up his sleeves and doing the hard, unsexy, un-fun, unsung work, simply because that is who he is.
2. The worries about Tony clashing with Bill Peduto are understandable but unlikely. No neighborhood can reliably be well-served by the City when its member of Council is at war with the Mayor of the City. Tony has too many friends and relatives, people he cares deeply for to allow his communities to suffer because of such foolishness.
3. In large numbers, District 7 residents voted for Bill Peduto. He will be the Mayor. And, unless I missed my guess, he will make the entire City his focus. The voters elected him to reform our government, modernize it and bring it fully into the 21st Century.
4. The residents of District 7, for the reasons I stated above, need Tony Ceoffe in that seat, right now.
The views of guest blogger Shawn Carter do not necessarily reflect those of the Pittsburgh Comet's editor and lead author. In fact they tend otherwise. Consult your doctor before starting any new exercise regimen.