Mayor Luke Ravenstahl had Public Works begin immediately clearing overgrown, empty lots after a neighborhood sweep of Perry Hilltop organized by the Perry Hilltop Citizens’ Council on July 20.
“The goal is to point out needs that have been neglected for a long time,” Culver said as he pointed to a deteriorating underpass and several abandoned buildings on the corner of Perrysville Avenue and Charles Street.
Ravenstahl nodded, said “okay” and occasionally consulted with a member of Pittsburgh Public Works or Lauren Burn, the neighborhood initiative coordinator, both of whom followed him on the tour.
As the group walked by several empty lots on Ellzey Street, Ravenstahl suggested a community garden.
Shirley Jordan, who has lived on Perry Hilltop for 38 years and is a member of the citizens’ council, said the neighborhood used to be nice, but now has issues with trash, rodents, dilapidated buildings and drugs.
Currently the only operating business at the intersection of Perrysville Avenue and Charles Street is Swinkos, a convenience store.
“That window’s going to fall out and hit me when I come out of my house one day,” she said, pointing to a second floor window on the abandoned house that looked as if it could tumble down at any moment.
A little further down the street, an empty lot filled with an enormous growth of leafy weeds threatened to overtake an abandoned, rotting building. The weeds reached the top of the two or three-story house and spilled out into the alley.
He said when he saw a car idling out back, he took pictures and made sure he was seen. Since he started doing that, he said the trafficking has gone down drastically. He also has a motion-activated light behind his house that illuminates most of that part of the alley, he said.
Deanna Robinson, wife of Odell Robinson of Robinson Funeral Home, Inc. on Perrysville Avenue, also spoke with Ravenstahl and offered her family’s help.
“Some people don’t have the luxury to say ‘I’m moving out of this cemetery,’” she said, referring to people who have had loved ones die in their homes or in their neighborhoods because of violence.
Ravenstahl agreed the cameras would go a long way to cleaning up the community. The video would feed directly to the Zone 1 Police Station.
Culver and the council put together a DVD with videos and still pictures of eyesores and blight throughout the entire community and presented it to Ravenstahl at the beginning of the tour so that he could see the rest of the neighborhood.
Lisa Miles, Perry Hilltop resident and author of the book Resurrecting Allegheny City, asked the mayor not to forget about lower Perry Hilltop and the many deteriorating historic sites there.
Jordan initiated the walkthrough after she caught up with Ravenstahl at an awards dinner in May and brought the neighborhood’s problems to his attention.