District 1 Councilman Bobby Wilson shares the highlights of his first year in office.
Photo: City Council Chambers by Ashlee Green
I hope everyone had a safe and wonderful Thanksgiving! As we head into the holiday season, I’d like to look back on the work we did in my first year as your Councilman. Though COVID-19 tried to slow us down, it’s been a busy year. My staff and I have worked with over 450 residents on all types of concerns in their neighborhoods. I was especially proud to have partnered with Cityview Church and the University of Pittsburgh to distribute essential needs packages to local senior high-rises when these items were difficult to come by. Whether constituents reached out by phone, email, or social media, we’ve done our best to follow up with everyone every time and work to get their questions answered or their issues resolved. It’s been an honor and a privilege to serve you this year, and I’d like to take a moment to share some of the highlights of what we’ve accomplished in the Northside this year.
One of the most common asks from my Council District 1 this year was for traffic calming measures: These are steps the City’s Department of Mobility & Infrastructure (DOMI) takes to slow down speeding cars. Many of you will think of speed humps as the most obvious traffic calming measures, but there are many other things, like restriping lanes, painting crosswalks, or adding bump-outs, that the City can do to make a fast street slower. Our first traffic calming project happened on Venture Street in Observatory Hill. There, DOMI installed a series of speed humps to slow cars as they came down the hill through the residential neighborhood to get on I-279. These speed humps cost $47,000 and the process for getting them installed started in October 2019, when we helped a concerned resident apply for traffic calming for Venture Street through DOMI’s Neighborhood Traffic Calming Program. The speed humps were installed in August of this year, and everything we learned about getting such measures to slow down speeding cars has been put to good use launching over a dozen other traffic calming projects across my Council District.
When I was campaigning for City Council, I had hundreds of conversations with Northsiders about paving. I know how aggravating it can be to drive a road that has long been neglected, and as soon as paving season began this spring, I got in my car and drove every Northside street on the paving list this year. The City spent $1.9 million on paving in the District this spring and summer. There is plenty of paving left to do, and we still have a long list of paving requests that we will work to fulfill during next year’s paving season.
Dealing with paving also taught me the importance of managing stormwater if we want to maintain our roads and hillsides. If we do not control where water flows, then it will cause landslides on our properties and erode our roads. Dealing with stormwater requires working with DOMI, the Department of Public Works (DPW), and the Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority (PWSA). Building relationships with the directors and staffs of all these agencies allowed me to solve multiple stormwater issues for residents on Cherryland Street in Summer Hill, Damas and Zoller Streets in Spring Hill, and Wyona Way in Brighton Heights by adding catch basins, regrading street surfaces, and installing wedge curbs.
As many of you know, landslides have been a huge problem in the Northside. Thanks to the advocacy of the Friends of Riverview Park (FORP), Mayor Peduto prioritized $1.8 million for landslide repairs in our great regional park. We will first repair the landslide that caused Riverview Avenue by the Chapel Shelter to crumble. Also, I asked that the Northside’s 34 parks be put on a more regular maintenance schedule, which resulted in the addition of six DPW crew members to the Northern Division. DOMI just spent $1.1 million to remediate a landslide on List Street in Spring Hill and is spending $850,000 to fix the landslide at Cowley-Goettman Park in Troy Hill. The City is also investing $890,000 to build a retaining wall to stabilize the hillside to save Semicir Street in Observatory Hill.
I am excited to have completed several infrastructure projects during my first year on Council. In Troy Hill, the City completed major repairs on the Rialto Street steps and invested $600,000 to replace the Lowrie Street Bridge. My office worked with DPW and the Mayor’s Office of Community Affairs to present proposed designs for the Cowley-Goettman Recreation Center in Troy Hill to community members. After completing an extensive $430,000 redesign of the Fineview Park, which included a new walking track, a renovated picnic shelter, and a new playground, the City opened this park to the public this summer. I am sure Spring Garden and Spring Hill residents have noticed the brand new $650,000 City steps at Vista Street, which are almost complete. The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy is working on a nearly $2 million renovation of the North Promenade at Allegheny Commons. So far, the Promenade between Sandusky and Federal Streets has been replaced and furnished with new benches and historically appropriate lighting, diagonal pathways were widened, and 59 trees were planted along the Promenade. Thanks to a new mid-block crossing, a crosswalk, and curb cuts on both sides of Federal Street, park users can now safely continue on the Promenade while crossing this busy street. At another end of the Commons, the West Ohio Street Bridge is being built right now at a cost of $5.2 million. It should hopefully be open by fall of 2021, in time to make it easier for everyone to catch the last ice balls of the year at Gus & Yia Yia’s. As I help build out the City’s 2021 Capital Budget this month, I look forward to launching quite a few more infrastructure projects across the Northside next year.
Finally, I am proud to announce the allocation of $60,000 in Public Service grants to organizations that provide essential services across the Northside. Recipients of these grants included Cityview Church, Northside Common Ministries Food Pantry, Sarah Heinz House, Northside North Shore Chamber of Commerce, and the wonderful newspaper in which you’re reading this column—The Northside Chronicle. I was also pleased to allocate $80,000 in Neighborhood Economic Development grants to Perry Hilltop & Fineview Citizens Councils and the Northside Leadership Conference to fund their staffs’ work on increasing affordable housing and development on the Northside.
If you have any other questions or concerns, call us at 412-255-2135, email us at [email protected], or find us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. My staff and I wish all of you a joyous holiday season and a Happy New Year, and we look forward to hearing from you in 2021!
BOBBY WILSON COUNCILMAN, DISTRICT 1