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Mayor Gainey, Councilor Warwick visit 31st Ward | The Homepage

By Juliet Martinez, Managing Editor

Several dozen people sit in a school cafeteria. A dark-skinned man stands and speaks to the group.
District 5 Councilor Barb Warwick (seated at left) and Mayor Ed Gainey at Mifflin Elementary School on Feb. 17. Photo by Juliet Martinez

The Feb. 17 31st Ward community meeting with Mayor Ed Gainey and District 5 Councilor Barb Warwick drew a robust crowd to the cafeteria of Mifflin Elementary School. The gathering gave residents a chance to speak directly to the mayor and their city council representative, along with other members of the Gainey administration, about important topics for residents of Lincoln Place, Hays, New Homestead and Gates Manor. (See Page 9 for photos.)

In opening remarks, Mr. Gainey touted his administration’s accomplishments like funding the Department of Public Works, also known as DPW, so it is capable of handling severe weather events and its other duties. Homicides are down 27% and three new classes of cadets are moving through the police academy. Homelessness is also down, Downtown is cleaner and safer, and the Cultural District is functioning at capacity.

McBride Park

Chris Hornstein, director of the Department of Public Works, said the park’s New Deal-era shelter will be repaired. It was damaged by a fire almost 20 years ago. Residents have said they want the shelter restored, not replaced. The department has special ordered a new post for it. Their goal is to finish the restoration by the end of this year, but in 2025 if delivery of the post is delayed.

Mr. Hornstein said the possibility of putting garage doors on the shelter can be addressed after the repair is done. The community can decide if it wants the shelter to be open all the time or available by reservation. He and the mayor said security cameras would have to be cleared by the legal department. Mr. Gainey suggested a public art activity aimed at youth to promote a sense of ownership and reduce the risk of vandalism.

Ms. Warwick said the McBride pool opening this year will depend on the number of lifeguards. She encouraged everyone to spread the word that the city needs lifeguards.

Fire Station 20 and Medic 12

Claire Mastroberardino, DPW senior project manager in charge of the project, said construction documents are being finalized. They will be submitted to the zoning board and Permits, Licenses and Inspections by March. The environmental permit has been secured. She expects construction to begin in 2025.

In response to questions, she said most of the new site at 1206 Mifflin Road is not undermined. The non-undermined part is where the main part of the building will be. The part that is undermined is being filled with grout to stabilize it before construction begins. Ms. Mastroberardino said the civil engineers cleared the site and design so it should be safe for the surrounding homes.

The fire station will have a meeting room to fit 49 people. Residents said this is too small for their needs. Ms. Mastroberardino said the Urban Redevelopment Authority is working on another community meeting space for the area.

Mine subsidence

Residents affected by the mine subsidence event on Interboro Avenue between Mifflin Road and Leaside Drive said the state Department of Environmental Protection has not returned to brief the community as promised. One affected resident said his home is still sinking. Mr. Gainey promised to contact Sen. Jay Costa and urge him to set up a meeting with the department. Ms. Warwick promised to be “pushy” with the department.

Traffic safety

Police sergeant Joe Reiff reported on the traffic studies on major arteries and side streets in the 31st Ward. He is gathering data via radar monitors and has found that in some areas, excess speeding is not as big of a problem as residents believe. Traffic enforcement is a challenge at present because the police department is extremely understaffed. He wants to redirect traffic by installing “no right turn” and “no left turn” signs to limit cars cutting through side streets.

Ms. Warwick said slowing down cars is a major priority for her and her office. The fact that children cannot safely play in their front yards or walk to a friend’s house in the neighborhood unaccompanied is a major public safety issue. Her office is working with the Department of Mobility and Infrastructure to find efficient and inexpensive ways to slow traffic. In the 31st Ward, many areas lack sidewalks, which makes speeding cars even more dangerous to pedestrians. But communities can also come together to make commitments to drive more safely.

Ms. Warwick said when she took office, Squirrel Hill had 20 speed humps, while none of the neighborhoods in the 15207 ZIP code had any. Hazelwood’s Johnston Avenue now has them, and Greenfield Avenue is next. “This inequity in traffic calming is over,” she said.

Mr. Gainey said the budget for traffic safety is 400% bigger this year than last.

Vacant properties and future plans

Mr. Gainey acknowledged the problem of vacant and abandoned homes but said the Pittsburgh Land Bank has moved more than 50 properties back onto the tax rolls in less than a year. He said some zoning changes could help the process.

Ms. Warwick said those zoning changes will be connected to the comprehensive city plan the Department of City Planning is developing. She said the communitiy input will inform the comprehensive planning process, and guide future zoning code changes and development.


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