Friday, November 15, 2013

Weekender: Quashing our Illusions


Now this is a wake up call:

My French is pretty much limited to asking for ice cream, the bathroom and to go to the Eiffel Tower, but the Washington Post summarizes it this way: "The French urge their citizens to avoid Mount Oliver, Hill District, Homewood-Brushton and Hazelwood." (Early Returns, Moriah Balingit)

Yes. We are a serious tourist destination for Europeans in general and for French-speaking peoples. Thank you Mario, but your princess is in another castle.

Yes. The Hill District, Homewood-Brusthon and Hazelwood are being categorized as hazardous no-go zones by the French government. Think about that.

Mount Oliver is war-torn, too? Forgive me, I'm from the North Side by way of Squirrel Hill. Mt. Lebonon, Mt. Pleasant and Mount Oliver is all sort of a blur.

Mount Oliver? This is the municipality which Pittsburgh completely surrounds? I know what you're thinking, but not until we get a new Police leadership to partner in settling the scourge of urban violence in the Hill District, Greater Homewood and Hazelwood respectively. And even then we'd need to muster a new army and declare war (and/or prepare terms for an annexation.)

MORE:  Homewood Nation


In better news, another really good article was written about us:

Once she got back home, she couldn't help but notice both the exciting changes happening in Pittsburgh's East End, and the work that still needed to be done in the city's low-income neighborhoods. She realized Pittsburgh could use a native like her, and that she could apply the skills she learned in New Orleans right in her backyard. (Atlantic Cities, Nona Willis Aronowitz)

Names, labels.

Artist and Pittsburgh native D.S. Kinsel, 29, is trying to bridge that divide. He lives in gentrifying Lawrenceville and works as a program coordinator at MGR, a youth empowerment organization. MGR teaches middle and high school age students to use art as a tool for activism. Pittsburgh isn't full of oblivious young yuppies, he assures me. Many twenty-something natives living in the East End neighborhoods of Lawrenceville, Garfield, Bloomfield, and Friendship are "reaching out and listening to what these [lower-income] communities need." He welcomes change and transplants—"as long as they’re respectful when they get here"—but he gives most of the credit to people like him who have been there all along.

"Young Pittsburghers want to lay down roots," he says. "We're interested in making sure the grit survives." (ibid)

Irish Central
That's funny. Not long ago you would have heard, "We're interested in scrubbing off the grit." These days they appreciate there is some grit, some neighborhoods, some stories, some history, some real civic, cultural, educational, industrial and technological resources that have produced their own stories.

We're the ones who work on the big things that need to be made (and try to make them better) and who take care of the home front because that's what makes life worth living. We want to be beating most everyplace else at football, economically and in terms of quality of life.

The grit is the soil. The grit is the nitrogen.


Unusual squabbling amongst Allegheny County law enforcement:

Zappala asked council for nearly $500,000 to revive a violent crime task force to combat drug-related activity in Pittsburgh's eastern suburbs.

He wants to use the money to hire five detectives, a request that surprised some county officials. (Trib, Aaron Aupperlee)

It's a shame we can't just get out of this drug war business, and treat it as a crisis of public health.

UPDATE / MORE: Blame this link on Radley Balko.

Thanksgiving is coming. In Pittsburgh there are lots and lots of good opportunities to react to feelings of gratitude, but the KD Turkey Fund has long been a good one (see Julius's Turkeys). Look alive.


  1. Countries publish reports based on basic heat-maps about crime reports, like this one --
    But the number of crimes doesn't necessarily mean a place is unsafe. The real problem is the tourism board doesn't have the money to send a guy to hang out in Mount Oliver to see how, although there may be some vandalism and break-ins, it's actually a pretty cool place.

  2. "Rust Belt Chic" (valuing the "grit" in places like PIttsburgh) appears to have gotten a huge boost from the Great Recession, particularly among Millenials. I think the basic dynamic is something like this: building lots of brand new shiny places (using lots of borrowing) proved unsustainable, both economically and environmentally. In a word, it was all a mirage, and it particularly screwed young adults just trying to enter the economy.

    So now Millenials crave places with history, authenticity, and whatever else would define the opposite of a mirage. And they also understand that maximizing the use of existing places, structures, and so on is a key component of good environmental practices.

    But they also still need opportunities, some sort of frontier where they can make their own place in the world. Hence Rust Belt Chic, where history/authenticity meets opportunity, including for creative reuse.