Letter to Mayor William Peduto
May 11, 2020
(Written two weeks prior to the tragic death of George Floyd.)
Path of Dignity or Path of Tragedy
There are two fundamental pathways of change: the less traveled Path of Dignity, or the worn-out Path of Tragedy.
You Refused to Support
Since 2007, we have been asking you to join us on the Path of Dignity to make positive changes for our Panther Hollow community and the larger Oakland neighborhood.
First, we asked for your support for a University of Pittsburgh-funded environmental program which would end Oakland’s horrific trash and litter problems. You refused to support the program even though the cost was equivalent to a mere $4 from each student’s hefty tuition fees.
Then, we asked for your support to move the massive fireworks display for Pitt’s Homecoming Week to a safer venue outside of Oakland, such as at Heinz Field. On one occasion, my 90-year old mother suffered seizures due to the fireworks and we rushed her to the hospital. You refused to support this request even though we spoke in front of city council on multiple occasions calling for compassion for our community.
Over a dozen other requests were made to you, including stopping the uncontrolled growth of Pitt and CMU that was severely decimating our community. You refused to support any of them.
On July 31, 2015, in an act of moral corruption, the city applied for a $3 million dollar grant to build a roadway known as the Oakland Transit Connector, from the Almono site in Hazelwood, through Four Mile Run and Panther Hollow, to Pitt and CMU. This was done in secrecy. No one, including yourself, denied our assertion that the action was morally corrupt. We asked District Attorney Stephen Zappala to investigate if the project went beyond moral corruption. He chose silence.
In a likely attempt to cover up that shame, the Almono name was changed to Hazelwood Green, and the Oakland Transit Connector name was changed to Mon-Oakland Connector. However, as we have said on numerous occasions, shame that is masked, denied, numbed or ignored, will continue to grow. The following attests to that very truth.
Right-of-Way in Panther Hollow
Last week, I was provided minutes of the April 28 Resident Advisory Group meeting. They were shocking. The moral corruption continues in your desire to use the right-of-way in Panther Hollow for this roadway. There is an iron-clad, binding and legal agreement, discussed below, that precludes the use of this area for a roadway that would eventually destroy our neighborhood. Your attempt to renege on that agreement will be met with the strongest legal action available to us.
Brief Explanation of the Agreement
In 1980, the University of Pittsburgh wanted to build a business school, Mervis Hall, at the top of Joncaire Street, but the university leaders chose not to build a parking structure there. Instead, they decided to use the existing parking lot in Panther Hollow to fulfill their legal requirement for the number of parking stalls needed for the construction of the school.
That decision necessitated this iron-clad, binding and legal agreement between the City of Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh, and the Panther Hollow community. Part of the multiple conditions of the agreement involved the right-of-way in Panther Hollow. The agreement specified the width of the right-of-way and the requirement that the university plant and maintain the trees and grass there. The university has done so continuously for nearly 40 years. Prior to the agreement, there were no trees and grass in the right-of-way.
A longtime resident of Panther Hollow, who was involved intimately in the negotiations of this agreement, also designed the parking lot and right-of-way. He related to me that this agreement was in perpetuity.
Councilman Eugene “Jeep” DePasquale
This agreement between the City of Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh, and the Panther Hollow Community was presented to Councilman Eugene “Jeep” DePasquale, who proceeded to make public this iron-clad, binding and legal agreement. Our community is extremely grateful for his vision, wisdom and foresight to anticipate that one day, university leaders, after earning billions of dollars from the use of Mervis Hall, would attempt to renege on the agreement. He also knew that one day, a mayor, even one of Italian descent, and a city council, would also attempt to renege on the agreement.
Path of Dignity
The following suggestions would require a major shift in consciousness for you to support our community.
1) End all plans of a roadway through Panther Hollow. I cannot say this strongly enough–move on to the Path of Dignity and abandon plans to use this right-of-way through Panther Hollow. All attempts to renege on this agreement can result in personal legal action for individuals in government, university, and foundation organizations, as well as for other planners and operators of a proposed shuttle service on this roadway.
2) Begin the University of Pittsburgh’s and Carnegie Mellon University’s, orderly withdraw from Oakland. This would result in two very positive actions. 1) These universities can move to the Hazelwood Green site, eliminating any need for a roadway through Four Mile Run and Panther Hollow; and 2) it would allow for Oakland to be rebuilt as the thriving residential community that it was prior to the devastating, uncontrolled growth of these universities.
3) Redirect the $20 million dollars approved by you and Pittsburgh City Council for the ill-conceived roadway project. People of color on city council should lead the way and use the monies for underserved neighborhoods.
4) End the University of Pittsburgh’s Homecoming Week fireworks display. It would be criminal for thousands of administrators, faculty, alumni, and students, to congregate for this unwanted event that has already shown to endanger the lives of our residents, especially the elderly.
5) Create an Italian Cultural Center in Panther Hollow. The center would honor the legacy of Italian immigrants not only from Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania, but throughout our country. Such a center would create numerous jobs and generate needed revenue for the city as a major tourist attraction.
Take the path less traveled. Take the Path of Dignity.