Wednesday, July 12, 2006

On the one hand...

I'm trying to decide which is more outrageous: the fact that the URA continues to buy buildings Downtown even though a developer has been named to renovate Downtown and is perfectly capable of buying--and paying for--the building itself, or the fact that the county and the state are preparing to pony up millions of dollars for a transit project we don't need, and that will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to operate, merely so we don't lose the federal funds that we were given to build said project in the first place.

I'm going to go with the North Shore connector on this one, but at least there appears to be a chance that county council might balk. Whereas the Downtown deal is going down, free market be damned.


Blogger Sean McDaniel said...

i can't agree more about the n. shore connector...the walk from the smithfield street t station to pnc park is about a half mile (i think the 6th street bridge is something like two-tenths of a mile long). the hike to heinz field is all of a 6 minute walk. it would be a hell of a lot cheaper to import to the city some latin american immigrants to give piggieback rides to sports fans.

as i've said before, there are way too many bus/trolley stops in this town...depending on the time of day, i can walk from the u.s. steel building t stop to the smithfield street station faster than the subway gets there. same goes with going from smithfield to gateway.

it's time for PAT to cut the number of stops instead of adding more. it's mass transit...not a private limo service.

and even for me...the URA deal is puzzling...but then should look into some of its transactions on the n. side. it's very interesting how some prominent property owners near the priory are receiving handsome sums from the URA for undeveloped/unrehabbed land/housing they picked up for next to nothing.

12:28 PM

Blogger Amos_thePokerCat said...

Ya, as much as it pains me to agree with Sean, the North Shore connector is a boon doggles' boon doggle. What with PAT being $31.5M in the red on this years budget, why not ante up for even more?

At my cynic worst, I look at the Big Dig dropping slabs of concrete on motorists, (I mean really, you think they could reliably engineer for those things to stay in place, seems obvious but that is just me) and I wonder what is the worst that can happen with tunnels under the river? AH, but any publicity is good publicity.

7:32 PM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

Opposition to the North Shore connector could be the unifying factor that ends hostilities between Israel and Lebanon.

8:23 PM

Blogger Amos_thePokerCat said...

That and falafel that is not awful.

9:09 PM

Blogger Sean McDaniel said...

try to see it my way and the light will guide you to truth, justice and a life free of constipation!

i'm battling with j. morris on his view of what a city should be...and reiterating my views of how pittsburghers are a pretty lazy bunch when it comes to walking. it sure would be nice to see a T link to bloomfield, shadyside, squirrel hill, though (sorry oakland, you're a bit off the beaten t-track. but we could get you a nice busway to and from town. with no stops after the courthouse until the Original. or close by.)

4:53 PM

Blogger Amos_thePokerCat said...

Maybe your interest in minimizing the number of PAT stops between you and basket of "O" fries has something to do with your scatological focus, oh, Digestive Crusader?

Damn You. ;-) Now I might have to make a run from the exurbs for a basket of "O" fries, if the weather breaks this weekend. Either that or install a fry-o-lator in my basement. Nah, probably not a good idea.

I can't find hot dogs with natural casings at the local Super Wally World either. Nor at the nearby Big Bird either.

I spent many a late night in the early 80's getting the last call of beer, dogs and fries at the "O". That was before it entered its current truely beatten up stage. Man, I thought it could not get more run down, but I was wrong.

There is a doc over at the CMU Heinz School's Center for Economic Dev called The Market for Housing in Downtown Pittsburgh, published last year. Shiny charts.

6:47 PM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

As someone who travels by bus from Brookline to Oakland every day, and would presumably benefit from a light-rail connection to Oakland, I nonetheless fail to see why so many people are pushing such a project. The most logical reason, I suppose, would be to alleviate parking problems in Oakland. But I think there are other ways of doing that without a costly transit project. Are people really going from Downtown to Oakland all day? I'm guessing there are more trips between Oakland and the technology park on Second Avenue. And I think, though I'm not positive, that various employers there provide shuttle service.

9:53 PM

Blogger John Morris said...

Once again a suburban logic dominates the conversation. The logic behind building a transit link to the north shore would be to enable high density apartment buildings and other high density development. This is the kind of stuff that can add a lot of people and energy into the area.

Unfortunatly the existense of the stadiums wrecks a lot of the logic behind the transit link.

As far as the link to Oakland well this one is just a no brainer. Once again that kind of a line would enable development all along the route and enhance the logic of living downtown.

In NY a lot of the train lines preceded development and helped shape it.

It's just funny how no one complains at the URA blowing 20-40 million a pop on parking garages.

10:47 PM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

If you think I'm sympathetic to suburbanites or to "suburban logic" you haven't been reading this blog for very long my friend. Is it possible that a light-rail link to Oakland would spark development all along the Forbes Avenue corridor? Perhaps. But it's a costly gamble for a transit agency that is swimming in red ink, and can barely afford to maintain the system it has. Light-rail has done little for Beechview, for example, even while it makes for easier for people who live in Mt. Lebanon and Bethel Park to commute Downtown.

I'd like to see what happens with Duquesne University--I think their plans could go a long way to reviving that part of town.

As to the North Shore, the development that is occurring, and that will occur in the future, does not necessitate the connector, and I don't see the connector itself doing much to spark further residential development. I'd also be happier if they had chosen the less expensive option of using the old railroad bridge, rather than tunneling under the river.

9:03 AM

Blogger Sean McDaniel said...

once again, suburbanites are not inherently evil...even when you spot them in wal mart. aside from being inside the city limits, what really distiguishes beechview from bellevue, which is just across a short bridge from the city? to most outsiders (and city residents not familiar with the north side, bellevue would look another city neighborhood.

so maybe the issue here is a matter regional perspective. it really annoys me when someone from mccandless (or the suburb or your ire) spouts that they could get along perfectly well if pittsburgh went down the tubes, that's assuming that the steelers didn't get flushed down the drain to san antonio. the kind of narrow minded thinking ignores that the very reason mccandless exists is because of pittsburgh.

on the other hand, the city needs to broaden their horizons about the suburbs can sustain downtown and the rest of the town...and city residents need not look at those who live beyond Pittsburgh's borders as insurgents.

as i've said elsewhere, this isn't a black and white issue...or even shades of gray. there's plenty of room for compromise and success here.

as for that north shore connector it's a waste...without a link to the east end. And to reach the east end i would push for the underground route through the strip, bloomfield, shadyside and sq. hill to serve the high concentration of retail/restaurant areas and permanent residents) and a surface express bus route to oakland to serve PITT, CMU, the museums and S. Craig/Forbes businesses.

i know that bypasses lawrenceville and garfield. but better bus connections (with fewer stops, far fewer stops) could link those neighborhoods with the East End T line.

in the past year i've visited Chicago, SF and Seattle and was amazed how many people in those towns make their way around town in something other than their own cars. for the most part, and this includes city residents who live in just about any neighborhood, anytime a trip amounts to anything above a quarter of a mile, people here reach for their car keys. it kills me to see how many people from shadyside and bloomfiled load their bikes into their explorers ride along the jail trail. (yeah, those lazy bastards from the suburbs do the with the north side trail.)

now for all those who say i never present a solution, how's that for a sart?

and J. Morris, I did bitch about the 400-story parking lot the mushroomed in the space between PNC Park and Heinz Field.

as for parking in general...i live in a community where street parking is a real premium these days...because just about every household has as many or more vehicles per drivers...and this is just from where i next door neighbor has a truck, a van and one sedan...another guy up the street just one house has 4 subaru station wagons, a truck, a vw golf and some kind of buick...three vehicles are on the street...four are parked in his backyard and oh yeah, two people live in his home...the house directly behind me has four vehicles for three to that is a home with three drivers, one truck, one van, one motorcycle and three four drivers, two cars...and one basically just sits for days at a time until my one kid goes to college. as i said, my kids work in the city (on the n. side) and take the bus. honestly, i can go an entire week without driving or riding in a car. but that's not the norm here.

2:53 PM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...


I'm a fan of walkable communities, inside or out of the city limits. I'm a fan of Dormont, Bellevue, Sewickley, Mt. Lebanon (most of it, anyway), etc. So I agree with what you are saying about distinguishing between high-density development and low-density sprawl.

I'd also like to see more express routes between key locations. That is a good idea. You don't have to convince me this is a far too car reliant city. It raises a chicken-and-egg question--Does Pittsburgh have a sub-par transit system because too few people use it, or do few people use it because it is subpar?

For that matter, is it subpar? Do we have the population to support something more extensive, and to what extent do we use transit as an economic development tool?

3:53 PM

Blogger Sean McDaniel said...

actually, i think PAT is good...except for all the stops. there's no way that a ride from Avalon to downtown should take close to 40 minutes — even during non-rush times. honestly, I can ride my bike into pittsburgh faster...and i average about 15 miles an hour along the bus route. of course, i only have one passenger to deliver. but the 16C/B routes could make the trip much faster without a stop every tenth of a mile (literally) for long stretches of the trip. sure, it's hard to get from n. side to SSW via PAT. So some better connections are in order. But it's a workable system that could be better if tweaked.

4:06 PM

Blogger John Morris said...

Hi Jonathan,

I am not a math guy, but I think it's pretty clear that transit, zoning and density are linked. Without a sufficient level of density a transit line is pure charity. Which is what most of Pittsburgh's system is.

I'm a rather cold guy and getting colder. The obvious solution ( but the hard political one ) is to look at slashing or eliminating bus service to areas with low densities and low ridership and to plow that money into the core central lines. I think they know well which lines don't pay.

NY's transit lines, which were built by private companies are a good model. The lines often proceeeded development and worked in synergy with it. I build the line and you build the apartment buildings along the line- that was the system. And it worked like crazy.Elevators and subways are what made NY.

One good example of the cost of not having good lines in the heart of town is the Armstrong Cork project. For a bit over 200 units they will have to build a garage for over 400 cars. That is a huge part of the expense of the thing.

Honestly, I find the fact that the need for core transit in the city is debated is a sad reflection on the intelegence level here. That there is a need is a no brainer.

6:57 AM

Blogger John Morris said...

Well Jonathan,

This is connected to the demand for Apartments and offices in the downtown. With no decent, frequent and cheap connection, the demand for housing will be stunted in the downtown. A downtown with all that required parking and the clogged roads would have a very limited appeal.

I also want to throw in the issue of basic justice. In between Oakland and the downtown sits the uptown and the hill. Two neighborhoods severly damaged by Pittsburghs anti urban policies.

Many of these people lack cars and live a life separated from the oportunities of the city that surrounds them. A lite rail link nearby would help them like crazy and provide a hope of building enough density in that area to bring in stores and jobs.

Remember that the city played a huge role in destoying the hills link to the city. It really is payback time.

9:10 AM

Blogger Sean McDaniel said... for the was going downhill when the city leveled a good part of it...not that the deterioration justifies what happened there. but, the riots of the 1960s (especially after MLK's death) killed the area (as did integreation...yeah, i know we didn't have jim crow laws on the books...but the discrimination that kept blacks from trying on clothes at downtown deparment stores helped keep black-owned clothings store open on the hill). so it wasn't all re-urbanization that killed the hill...

as for the uptown section of fifth ave...those businesses were mostly white owned ...and as unPC as it sounds now...the adults back then referred to the area as "Jewtown" because of the religion of the business owners. every year in august, my mother took me to the many clothing stores there to get new outfits for the upcoming school year. there were a few camera shops there too. but as my family and so many other white families moved to the suburbs (go ahead, JM, put the scumbag label on my clan...but remember i was 5 years old then)...those shops pulled up their stakes and followed their clients...and some just got crushed in the giant footprints of chain stores in the malls.

anyway, it wasn't just re-urbanization that did in the hill and uptown.

one thing that really puzzles me is that everyone on these blogs seems to forget that americans have always been looking for greener pastures...otherwise all 300 million of us would be living in NYC, boston, philadelphia and a few other megaopolises along the east coast...or in germany or england or poland or wherever the hell else we came from. none of us if from here...we just live here

9:36 AM

Blogger John Morris said...

Everyone loves a green pasture with all the infrastructure paid by someone else.

Hopefully someone will chip in for the asthma care for the kids on the hill. I don't know what it is there but if it fits the inner city pattern it's high. The kids have to breath all the crap from all the people "just passing Through" on thier way around the city.

I don't want to just seem altruistic about this. The hill and Uptown would be valuable property in a normal city. a normal level of density would leave enough shopping and jobs for both places.

Whatever the cause of the hills decline, it's likely that breaking the street grid and creating a barrier between the city and the hill did a lot of damage.

10:39 AM

Blogger John Morris said...

I feel realy bad. I came here without much research on the hopes that Pittsburgh wanted to be a great city. But now I am pretty sure it doesn't. Everyone has placed thier bets against the city. They want to live somewhere else and just have a city there for them. They don't really love Pittsburgh. I do. I made a mistake.

10:47 AM

Blogger Sean McDaniel said...

trust me JM...because you said really didn't do your research on the city (a point the annoys me with others who complain about this town)...because no one "just" passes through the hill or even fifth avenue in the uptown (unless they need to buy 3 cigarettes for a buck or take advantage of one of the steak "sales" those guys operate out of the trunks of their cars) ...seriously, ask any of the white folks here the last time they drove along centre or wylie avenues or parts of homewood/lincoln larimer/northview heights (when i pedal through these areas, i attract a lot of attention, but no problems. then again, i'm not looking for drugs, sex, guns or other trouble).

yes, mortality birth rates here are higher for blacks than for whites. and overall health probably follows the same pattern. substandard housing, nutrition, lack of parental guidance and care, and of course, poverty, drugs and crime...but car and bus fumes from indifferent suburban (or east end) caucasians looking for a short cut isn't the reason...have you ever driven along centre? there are far too many traffic lights and stop signs for the street to be a quick route from oakland to downtown. and you best believe, most whites would think they didn't have enough locks or steel reinforcement on their Hummers to drive through the hill. they'd rather motor through fallujah in a convertible vw beetle waving the stars and stripes.

11:33 AM

Blogger Sean McDaniel said...

one more thing about the pittsburgh attitude...the blue collar mentality kills's like that pretty girl you talk about all the time...the one who acts dumb when she's really a brain...or the guy who won't ever wear a suit and tie because he doesn't want to appear uppity.

sure the working men of this city built an industrial powerhouse here a century ago...thanks to the exploitation of carnegie, frick and their ilk (hey, it kills me to city the volvo liberals dining on the lawn of the frick museum without any sense of irony)...long ago, the blue collar state of mind gave those workers a collective dignity and force that the rich folks could buy. but now, that mindset holds back the entire city...which is why steeler fans prefer a jerome bettis to a lynn swann...the bus bruises his way to success instead of relying on grace and and skill as swann did. and for the most part, too many pittsburghers (even a much too large proportion of young people) just distrust anything that seems to contain the slightest whiff of sophisticatio.maybe it's those lingering traces of distrust and contempt for what the robber barons of the past did. (and i'm not going to go into the corrupt fiasco that most unions are these days...just look at that fingerprint timeclock system that city workers don't want installed). but that feeling that you've betrayed your roots if you better yourself through education and knowledge (as opposed to a better union contract or winning the $72 gazillion powerball jackpot) will keep us from being a great city...the problem for pittsburgh is going from good to's getting to good...right now, we're mired in mediocrity.

11:47 AM

Blogger John Morris said...

I did enough research to know that no one drives through the hill. But the residents of the hill still have to breath all the highway traffic and the fumes from cars going around it.

I have a completly different perspective on the city in that I know that there is a lot of demand for the kind of city Pittsburgh could be. Look at real estate prices in NY and in Boston and in San Franciso and in Providence or D.C. and you get some idea of tha kind of demand one could generate.

But that is demand for urban life. If Pittsburgh wants to keep on gutting itself for folks in "Dawn of The Dead" land it will be at best a 77th ranked city or whatever.

12:39 PM

Blogger Sean McDaniel said...

JM: if you still live above your gallery, then you know that real estate is rising fast in your neighborhood. i checked out a place on foster street billed as a three bedroom home, that is if you don't mind a bedroom without a door and little privacy. and only one bathroom (a nice little backyard and an off-street parking space). and it lists for $175,000, basically a steal compared to what the plac would cost on the war streets, southside, shadyside or regent square.

so some of your claims about people not recognizing the city's potential seem to ring a bit hollow...and if you ever want to pedal around with me (an invitation open to all you criticize pittsburgh) i'll show you signs of (new) life in many other places.

again and again...the other places you mention either are centers of commerce, government of both (or they're close to them) and enjoy a large populations of people who have significant don't have to travel far to see that pittsburgh doesn't fall into that category right now.

and talk about social justice...when you push out the poor people who used to live above that greasy spoon on butler street, just where do they go? let's say that we start making the hill more attractive (and have you ever seen the views from there? they are breathtaking.), how long will it be before the John Morrises of the world start to displace the black population?

That's how it works. and we all know it. but those people have to go somewhere when galleries and coffee shops and apple stores take over...oh wait, that's why we built northview heights and st. clair village! and just wait till the hispanic population really starts to take off here!

no, i'm not a xenophobe or rasict...but when artists "discover" or "create" a "hot" new neighborhood the more affluent sophisticates who support the trendy restaurants and galleries buy up the real estate, driving out the longtime poorer locals...and the artists too...the question is...when do you run out of room to sweep the poor and minorities out of the places where cool, hip, affluent white want to live?

1:01 PM

Blogger John Morris said...

Anyway now I know better. The fact is that the urban office park was what Pittsburgher's wanted. They want the effects of a city, jobs, shopping and whatever but they don't want to live in one or pay taxes into one.

It's only now that the city is running out of out of town sucker investors and losing it's office jobs that they act like they are listening. But it's a scam.

They are just looking for a few hundred rich suckers who they think will pay for all thier waste. The kind of city i am talking about would mean a reshuffling of the power base. And that is what people don't want.

1:03 PM

Blogger Sean McDaniel said...

I'll say it again...real estate prices are rising in lawrenceville...garfield and obviously, people are willing to live (and pay taxes) in the city.

as for you picking pittsburgh, i'm willing to bet that you couldn't afford the east village...or soho...or williamsburg...or greenpoint...or DUMBO...and what happens when escalating rent forces you out of lawrenceville (unless you own the building and make a killing selling the place to some investment banker and his pharamceutical sales rep wife)?

as for car traffic in downtown...does it matter if the streets are jammed with private autos (aside from parking) or a sea of yellow cabs, which create all that gunk that gives poor kids respriratory disease (that those park avenue kids seem to be immune too)?

look, i'm sympathetic to your line of thought about how the pittsburgh power structure and population thinks about the city and region. it's terribly feudal, if not futile.

2:17 PM

Blogger John Morris said...

Hi sean,

I have done some research and that should not be a major issue in Pittsburgh.

Gentrificaton requires two factors.

1) is a demand that exceeds current supply

2) is limit's on supply either for actual lack of space to build or because of restrictions on building or other limit's

That is why I came to Pittsburgh! It has a core city that nobody lives in. An empty strip, A buildable area on the North side. Space along Baum Blvd and East Liberty.

Pittsburgh needs people. That's what is so frustrating. Instead of building up and making use of the town, they are building stadiums and parking garages and highways and strip mall crap.

Well anyway, I am stuck here now. But, I am not recomending the town to people.

3:37 PM

Blogger Amos_thePokerCat said...

Ops, a thread that I though had degraded into puns-ville takes off.

Sean, you obviuously don't listen to much PIT talk radio. Those parking garages are regularly mocked on KDKA. Most of the host would qualigy has suburbanites by your strict definition.

7:41 PM

Blogger John Morris said...

Anyone have any thoughts on my cold math solution? I think that core city transit should be partly paid for by cutting off service to low density outlying areas.

I don't want to pick on some of these very poor places, but a lot of money is spent running mostly empty buses to semi ghost towns. It might inspire a few people to move into Pittsburgh.

10:56 PM

Blogger Sean McDaniel said...

well, you are picking on poor neighborhoods...because a lot of the people who live in those ghost towns take the bus to work in the mcdonald's downtown, restaurants on southside, universities in oakland and ballparks on the northside (as for the west and south, i really don't know what people do beyond the fort pitt tunnels and liberty tubes do...that's a strange world over for a northside/n. hills guy).

honestly, how will the maintenance people in the new downtown condos get to work? you lived in many puerto rican families live on columbus avenue (in the 70s and 80s) and clean hotel rooms at the marriott in times square? okay, i know i'm overstating the point...but that very low income blue collar person already has a tough time making ends is he or she going to pay the bills if their lifeline of public transportation is cut?

if the cultural and financial elite are gobbling up all the housing in desireable neighborhoods, maybe those ghost towns will become the new living quarters for those less affluent people pushed out of the now trendy spots generations of their families once called home. and the bus routes will need to be increased...which is okay since so many urban dwellers will be walking to work, the doctor's or the grocery store.

actually, PAT needs to eliminate stops on its routes...if i have a drumbeat cause, this might be it. a bus ride from bellevue to downtown, even during off peak hours, takes 30 minutes to cover about 6 math can be spotty...but that's a top speed of 12 miles per hour! and the average of one stop every tenth of a mile...the only reason the trip doesn't take longer is that during non-rush hour trips there aren't people at every stop. but during the morning commute there are people at probably 70 percent of the stops. let's eliminate stops on routes first, then see if routes in general need to be cut.

and AMOS...not i don't listen to PGH talk radio or any other type...too much bitching and yelling.

9:40 AM

Blogger John Morris said...

As, I have been saying. Pittsburgh is a hollow donut with tons of space for housing at it's core. So talking like there is some kind of need for people to live out of town is crazy. There are plenty of homes on the north side that need fixing. A good bit of Lawrenceville is still cheap and then there is uptown or garfield or tons of other stuff.

Face the fact's if one want's a transit system that come even close to paying for itself and a city that can come close to supporting itself one has to build density.

If and when the city get's on it's feet, it's surounding areas can have thier day in the sun.

As we can see this whole thing is about politics and not reason. Reason dictates that one would spend money on the high density routes and those that could be built into them first. But politics say's run empty buses through ghost towns.

But, you raised the issue. Who is hurt most by sprawl? Poor people and those without cars.

10:15 AM

Blogger Sean McDaniel said...


maybe just maybe if you happen to be in the right spot at the right time, you can find something on the north side for under $100,000 in the mex war streets/manchester area...further afield in brighton heights and other neighborhoods...the price will be lower but not all that much...what kind of mortgage do you think a family with a household income of $32,000 or less can afford?

and affordable in lawrenceville and garfield is relative too. i just looked at a place on foster street, a couple blocks below butler and near the 40th street bridge that is selling for $175, don't buy that on even a wage of $10 an hour. a shell that costs you $50,000 but needs $70,000 more in upgrades isn't a bargain for a low income family.

by the way, this is one suburbanite who has gladly spent well over $700 in downtown for concerts, ballgames, dinners and drinks over the past few weeks (not to mention a couple of plays at the public theater and dinners in the past few months)...sure, the city was providing me police and fire protection (which i never used) and i traveled over city maintained roads and parked in a garage...but i think i gave back lots more than the city put out...and that's not even toting up what i've spent on movies and dinners at SSWorks and squirrel hill in the past two weeks (superman, prairie home companion, pirates, devil wears prada, da vinci code) and the stuff i buy in the strip every week. hell that's money i should have stuck in a mutual fund instead of wasting it on entertaining myself and family in the city. hell, maybe i should just start supporting my good old suburban megaplexes and applebee's and kohl's. or put a downpayment a mcmanision in a new sprawl development in cranberry where i can drive my hummer to the mailbox at the end of my two mile long driveway.

I'm doing my part to support city businesses...what about you? yeah, i know you pay taxes...but i put money in the hands of business people, most of them locals — like Christo, the greek guy who owns a restaurant on sixth street, and michael pijanowski who owns a cool place on nine street or robin fernandez who presides over bossa nova. yeah, i dropped a dime or two at all those places last night. but really how are your pumping money into the local economy?

by the way your gallery is a cool place. i like the photos by the woman (carol something) who uses tar on the frames.

11:12 AM

Blogger Sean McDaniel said...

as for sprawl hurting the poor and those without cars...i'm not sure about that. can you explain?

wouldn't the scum exodus to the suburbs open up space for the poor to live in the city? unless those urban homes are being snapped up by artists, writers, whatevers (carpetbaggers?) from nyc, philadelphia, baltimore, dc, boston and other more expensive towns?

11:16 AM

Blogger John Morris said...

This conversation kind of goes around and around.

That Pittsburgh is even having a slight gentrification issue reflcts anti growth polices. The most attractive parts for housing on the north side are given over to parking lots. The strip is mostly empty. The downtown is just starting to get a little residential and has to dedicate a huge chunk of space to parking.

There are huge spaces for housing in East Liberty . The hill is low density. etc...

11:49 AM

Blogger Amos_thePokerCat said...

Mentioning gentrifation and PIT in the same sentence, now that is funny.

Want to see what mid-west far-east-coast rust belt gentrification looks like? POV's Flag Wars shows some of what is going on in Columbus.

10:08 PM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

I haven't been following this thread too closely, but let me say that I fail to understand why people get excited about gentrification. Rising property values are a good thing, assuming that a neighborhood's character is not artificially altered because of undue government interference. (Something we have too much of in Pittsburgh.) Neighborhoods need not stay the same forever--there's a certain patronizing quality to criticism of gentrification. It's saying that the poor will and should be poor forever, condemned to living in the same neighborhoods for all time.

One way for people to get priced out of homes in an urban environment are artificial restrictions on growth, which is why I'm no fan of urban growth boundaries. There are other, better ways to inhibit sprawl.

10:32 PM

Blogger Sean McDaniel said...

J. Potts says about patronizing criticism of gentrification:

"It's saying that the poor will and should be poor forever, condemned to living in the same neighborhoods for all time."

well, gentrification certainly does assure that the poor want have to live on the mexican war streets forever...ambridge beckons!

i'm all for gentrification. and i could be wrong but most of it around here happened without govt interence...unless you want to count the huge breaks people got when they first started buying property on the mex war streets — which even though that neighborhood still falls far below its potential, the subsidies and tax incentives helped revitalize it.

not to be cheeky, but is that kind of govt interference okay? even if it does lead to the poor being pushed out?

and south side for the most part has done it on its own...same for shadyside and sq. hill. but more and more, there's no place in those neighborhoods for families that can't afford a 1,300 sq. ft. rowhouse for $225,000 or a 1,500 sq ft standalone for $350,000.

gotta face it, gentrification (govt rigged or not) pushes out the poor. which means they have to find a new blighted neighborhood. and in this current american life, we're developing an underclass that will include generation upon generation of the same families...unless we can restore the blue collar middle matter the amount of education, not everyone is able to be a freelance management succession consultant or a university grad student or media type at CMU (i'm the first example, so don't think that's a slam). just as not all of us grow up to play shortstop for the pirates.

2:27 PM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

I don't blanketly oppose government spending for neighborhood rehab, so, yes, I have to admit that when this is successful, it will displace people.

The problem you discuss at the end of your post has many causes, and no single solution. One thing that we can is to devote more resources and more attention toward vocational and technical education. This won't merely benefit the underclass, but plenty of middle class young people who are shoved off to college because their teachers and guidance counselors are snobs who think that intelligent people shouldn't waste their time being plumbers, or electricians or auto mechanics. My mother taught for 20 years at a vocational high school, which she witnessed turn into a dumping ground for special education students and disciplinary cases. Meanwhile, some kids go to college who have no idea what they want to do and could perhaps benefit greatly by going to a vo-tech. (Which does not preclude from going to college if they make that decision.)

The value of a bachelor's degree has been steadily eroding, even as post-secondary education is becoming more and more of a necessity for economic success. If you talk to Ken Gray, a Penn State professor who's an expert in vocational education and workforce development, he'll probably tell you that the over time, workers with technical training eventually earn as much or nearly as much as those with bachelor's degrees. I know from a story I worked on while I was at the Trib that one of the problems Pennsylvania has is a lack of skilled labor, which discourages many companies from setting up shop here.

8:20 PM

Blogger Sean McDaniel said...

i know a woman who's kid wants to be an auto designer. smart kid. deservedly college bound. but he wanted to learn about auto mechanics and signed up for classes at a local high-school vo-tech center. and guess what, the school wouldn't let him. until the mother threatened to sue. the reason? only the burnouts go there. you're not a burnout.

on the other hand, i have neighbors who barely made it through vo-tech school. still they work hard, keep their home and property clean and don't park 12 cars in various states of disrepair in their backyard...he is a mail sorter for the post office. she works part time at the P.O. too. and they lead a nice life. i don't mean to sound like rush limbaugh, but in america, if you're willing to work at it, you can succeed to the best of your abilities. that doesn't mean you'll live like donald trump. but it does mean you have a chance to be something more than the night shift clerk at co-gos. trouble is, to many people want the bling and think it should come easy.

i know you work hard. you got a day job. you write for the business times, the trib magazine and other publications. and you understand that just because you have a college degree that the world wasn't going to give you a free pass. whatever philosophical differences we may have, i'll never slam a person's desire to work hard to improve his/her lot in life. i think too many americans have lost that belief. i think it may have died with my parents' generation, espeically in the working classes.

10:04 AM


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