The vacant lot at 1923 Letsche Street in Fineview has been used as an illegal dumping ground. FCC wants to use CDBG money to transform the lot into welcoming community green space. (Photo/Kelly Thomas)

Fineview Citizens Council has applied for a $10,000 grant from the new Community Development Block Grant Vacant Lot Clean Up program to clean up and maintain 17 vacant city-owned lots this summer.

The grant would be used to pay community members and youth a decent wage to clear trash, debris and invasive species and to landscape and plant flowers between May and October 2011, said FCC President Melissa Gallagher.

“It’s certainly a great opportunity for our neighborhood and we really appreciate anything the Mayor’s Office can do to help out the community,” Gallagher said.

Although FCC identified lots all around the neighborhood that need work, it wants to focus on three areas: Lanark Street, Letsche Street and the Nunnery Hill Incline plane on Henderson Street.

Gallagher said the incline plane may not qualify for the grant money, but FCC included it because preserving the incline’s old support wall and creating a welcome point to the neighborhood is an important neighborhood priority.

Lanark Street is another key in Fineview’s future, according to the grant proposal, and FCC plans to build new houses there in the next two years. In the meantime, FCC would like to clear five lots of debris and plant perennial flowers where the lots meet the sidewalk.

Many of the vacant lots on Letsche Street off of Mercy Avenue are visible from Federal Street and have been the site of illegal dumping, according to the proposal. FCC hopes to clean them up and turn them into welcoming community greenspace.

Other lots, such as 2010-2020 Biggs Avenue, would become urban trails if FCC receives the grant money.

Gallagher said the grant money cannot be used to purchase supplies, only to pay workers. FCC will hire a program director, landscape contractors, program supervisors and 10 local youth for the “green team,” which will do much of the labor. All positions will be part time.

“Even if they don’t have specific landscaping [skills], they will gain some,” Gallagher said of the youth workers.

FCC plans to hire half of the youth workers from the Allegheny Dwellings public housing complex and the other half from the rest of the neighborhood, Gallagher said.

The federal government distributes community development block grants to local governments for improving and redeveloping eligible neighborhoods.

The Community Development Block Grant Vacant Lot Clean Up program was open for proposals from any CDBG-eligible neighborhood with a registered nonprofit community group. Fineview Citizens Council is the only group that responded to The Chronicle’s request for an interview.