Meeting date: May 12, 2020
Location: Online via Zoom
SSSNA President Blake McLaren opened the first-ever virtual meeting welcoming about 30 attendees on the Zoom platform.
Update from Commander Karen Dixon, Zone 3 Police
Zone 3 Police Commander Karen Dixon was the first presenter and said Slopes’ crime statistics were “unusual” due to the stay-at-home order. She reported in the first quarter of 2020 there were 28 property crimes and two violent crimes which is a decrease of 17.3% from 2019. In April, there was a decrease in calls, which allowed officers to more frequently check those areas where there are spikes.
Two shootings are under investigation: on Saint Paul St., and at Eleanor and Eccles streets. To a question if the shootings are drug related, the commander said she is unsure at this time.
An attendee asked if there were any officers infected with coronavirus, she said a few are isolated due to potential exposure.
Commander Dixon responded to a question about early morning gunshot firings in the park and said there were two shooters. Officers caught one, who was charged with reckless endangerment as a person who was camping had a shot fly over their head. ShotSpotter detection technology helped them identify the location of the shots.
Commander Dixon’s responded to participants alerting her to numerous camp sites under the P.J. McArdle Roadway on the way up to the Liberty Bridge. She will talk to the mayor’s office about it.
Update from City Councilman Bruce Kraus
City Councilman Bruce Kraus reported that the city is facing a $122 million shortfall in its operating budget due to the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent closures.
Kraus also brought up concerns about Airbnb incidents, including three shootings in the Slopes related to Airbnb venues. City Council and Pittsburgh Police are working on a solution together.
PennDOT construction safety improvement project on East Carson St has begun and will last 18 months. Kraus also reported that the Clean Team is in place on Carson St. to keep the E. Carson St. corridor maintained. He said $110,000 to $120,000 is spent each year and is funded by the Parking Enhancement District (PED), which receives money from South Side parking meters from 6 p.m. to midnight on Friday and Saturdays.
He also reported that residents can find their polling location by going to: alleghenyvotes.com.
He gave an update on the 18th St. signals project for pedestrian safety—the RFPs will be completed in early 2021, with an April 2021 project start. The project involves 18th St. and the following cross streets: Brownsville Rd., Bausman St., Amanda St., Hays Ave., Arlington Ave., Pius St., Mission St., Josephine St., Jane St. and Sarah St. The traffic signals will also be upgraded.
A participant complained about speeding on Barry St. during afternoon rush hours. He said three speed humps have been suggested by a city traffic employee. Kraus said that more traffic driving through the area is due to web-based maps like Google Maps and Wayz.
An attendee asked about a condemned house at 18th and Pius streets. Kraus said a demolition used to cost the city $13,000 to $15,000. Today it costs the city more than $45,000 per unit, mostly due to federal regulations, such as for asbestos. This year, $2 million was budgeted by the city for demolitions, which covers roughly 10 properties. But the city has hundreds in need of demolition. He suggested the SSSNA prioritize the Slopes properties in need of demolition and send him a list of the top five. He will then take that list to the administration. McLaren told participants to email him the addresses of properties in need of demolition.
SouthWatch update from Barbara Rudiak, president of the South Side Community Council
Rudiak provided an update on South Watch, a group working to improve the quality of life on the South Side by bringing people and institutions together to identify code violations, advocate for their remediation and monitor outcomes. Meetings are held the second Wednesdays at noon or 6 p.m. at the Brashear Association, 2005 Sarah St.
Fundraising update from Kristi Rogers and Andrea Matthews of the Brashear Association
Rogers thanked the SSSNA for their $5,000 matching grant campaign that for the Brashear food pantry. In addition to the $5,000 from the SSSNA, Brashear raised $3,035 through Brashear’s Facebook page, $3,625 through its website and $820 in mailed-in donations. The South Side Community Council added another $1,000. There were also personal donations. Due to the pandemic, the food pantry was changed to a “Grab-n-Go” pantry. The average for the pantry had been 125 families. In April, 230 families were served – a 54 percent increase.
Matthews added that there is still a great need for canned goods, paper products, cleaning supplies and more.
Other updates: South Side Park and StepTrek
Jamie Balser said the park was awarded a $1500 block grant. He also said he was unsure if urban youth would be taught at the park this summer. There has not been a decision on whether GoatFest will take place this summer, but the goats are scheduled to arrive in July.
StepTrek, the annual walking tour of the Slopes and primary fundraiser for the SSSNA, celebrates its 20th year. StepTrek Committee chair Brian Oswald said that due to coronavirus, it will be run differently this year. While details will emerge closer to the event, there will be social distancing and other precautions taken to protect participants. Additionally, the sponsorship revenue is predicted to be lower this year.
Next general meeting: July 14 (virtual picnic on Zoom)