Comment Thread and Response from Burgess’s Staff
|January 17, 2013||Posted by Progress Pittsburgh under Blogs, Community Development|
On Sunday, January 13, 2012 9:35 am The Pittsburgh Comet published - Ravenstahl philosophy one of “Crony Capitalism.” We have citations.
At 11:18 am anonymous posted the following comment on the post
In our neoliberal era laissez faire is nothing more than the ideological cover for crony capitalism, so you and Dowd may not be that far apart.
Nonetheless, another egregious example of this administration’s ham-handed approach to development is what has been happening in Larimer. A significantly representative subset of the black, mostly lower-income population has been doing community-based planning for the last few years and a really nice plan was beginning to come together (that’s just how long these things take). But instead of letting that process unfold, the Mayor, through his wolf in shepherd’s clothing Ricky Burgess, shoved through a LIHTC development by Keith B Key Enterprises. KBK is the same entity that rebuilt the projects, now with newer siding, at the top of Black Street in Garfield, another project in direct conflict with the community’s desires and plans.
The modus operandi of Burgess in the Garfield case was to say that the community was too late in articulating its concerns. The deal had already been cut and they were too far along, etc, etc. This was a repeat of the Bakery Square development, also technically in Larimer, where the development was shoved through receiving TIF and, most abhorrently, avoiding the fair wage and labor laws in the hotel piece ostensibly because the hotel wasn’t in fact on the ground, but was up one story (at least that’s the justification I’ve heard). No discernible benefit has accrued to Larimer from Bakery Square, and if Burgess gets to continue to play developer in Larimer, none will.
Now, both Garfield and Bakery Square were supposedly done deals before the community had the wherewithal to ask to be part of the conversation. That is simply absurd with regard to the current phase of Larimer development. Here a community has been planning and discussing for years, with rare involvement from Burgess, aside from his obviously bored staff member that occasionally deigns to participate. But, now that there is an election coming up where the Mayor wants black votes, Burgess is intent to give him a groundbreaking in Larimer before May. So what does the good Reverend do this time since he can no longer say the deal is already cut? He disparages and casts general aspersions on the very community members that have been working so hard for the last couple of years. He works to divide the community by encouraging the formation of a new community group and he begins to warn of “outside influences and speculators that want to come and steal the community’s land”. These absurdities are bold enough to actually divide the community, especially among residents who’ve not been paying attention that much. To them, ANY new development in Larimer, which has been disinvested for decades, is a good thing.
They don’t recognize that the development Burgess wants, and THAT THE MAYOR HAS EXPLICITLY SUPPORTED, will re-concentrate poverty in an already affordable neighborhood, making it so that Larimer doesn’t improve, homeowners continue to be unable to sell their homes for more than a pittance even though they can see the flags of Google from their porches, and renters suffer slumlords whose units are even worse than the publicly subsidized ones.
I could go on but the entire scenario in Larimer reflects the fact that this administration’s ideas of development, especially at the neighborhood level, are formed in accordance with the short-term of the election cycle. Rather than engage in the hard work of community-based development that gains equity for low-income homeowners, broadens the tax base and addresses the segregating effect of the City’s low-income housing practice, this administration would rather get a festive groundbreaking and photo op in a black neighborhood in order to garner another couple dozen votes.
Apologies for the rude length of this comment.
The KBK project in Garfield was approved in 2006.
Who was District 9′s Council rep/Housing Authority Vice-Chair in 2006?
Not Ricky Burgess.
On Monday, January 14, 2013 at 4:30pm Shawn Carter posted another comment:
I’ve never tried this before…
So here goes…
Here is the text of the document that Carter links to in his Jan 14 4:30pm comment (we have attempted to make sure the formatting matches Carter’s google doc. A Pdf of the google doc is available here.
Did Council District 9 even have a representative when this legislation passed? You already know the answer to that question, I presume, but since our reader don’t, I’ve provided the links.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but on the day of that vote Reverend Burgess hadn’t even been sworn into office. He wouldn’t be sworn in for another 26 days.
KBK is the same entity that rebuilt the projects, now with newer siding, at the top of Black Street in Garfield, another project in direct conflict with the community’s desires and plans.
Are you sure about that last remark? The projects weren’t rebuilt. A community was. And it sounds a lot like the residents explicitly wanted the community rebuilt AND not to be displaced.
A significantly representative subset of the black, mostly lower-income population has been doing community-based planning for the last few years and a really nice plan was beginning to come together (that’s just how long these things take)
So, we should just, wait? Just let $60 million in direct and indirect public subsidies slip through our hands (and to a different community, not necessarily one in a neighborhood that has as much need as Larimer) waiting for the plan that “was beginning” to come together. Let’s just wait until all the federal funds currently available to rebuild poor communities is gone and spent in other neighborhoods.
Even if the first half of that sentence were true, and it isn’t, how is it chronologically or intellectually honest to lay THAT at the Reverend’s feet? There are a lot of low-income families who deserve to live in clean, safe and affordable housing, right now and not at some point in the future. And you know, former Councilman Douglas Shields always used that phrase “benefit has accrued to.”
These absurdities are bold enough to actually divide the community, especially among residents who’ve not been paying attention that much. To them, ANY new development in Larimer, which has been disinvested for decades, is a good thing.
Who is the “them?” One might get the wrong impression about your use of articles to describe people. So tread lightly there…
They don’t recognize that the development Burgess wants… will re-concentrate poverty in an already affordable neighborhood, making it so that Larimer doesn’t improve, homeowners continue to be unable to sell their homes for more than a pittance… and renters suffer slumlords whose units are even worse than the publicly subsidized ones.Reverend Burgess has a solution for that. Let’s move low-income families into better neighborhoods, TODAY. Overnight, low-income families will have safer surroundings, much better schools, convenient access to healthy foods and real amenities, slumlords will lose their revenue base, we can still redevelop Larimer and help existing homeowners increase their equity.
All we have to do is begin building low-income housing in neighborhoods that fit that description. Pittsburgh has many. Shadyside, Squirrel Hill, Highland Park, Morningside, Friendship, North Oakland, North Shore, Strip District, Mount Washington, South Side Flats, Observatory Hill, Greenfield, Lincoln Place, Swisshelm Park, Point Breeze, Regent Square, Banksville, Brookline and so on.
These are the fastest means by which we remove disproportionate poverty and disinvestment as environmental variables in the lives of low-income families, almost overnight, and again, not at some point in the future. Is that a bit painful to say? Yes. In a perfect world, families should be able to stay in Larimer. But failed and dangerous communities are ones that must be fixed, and we must do that now.
Unfortunately, there is one little problem in that plan and I bet you already know what that is:
“high-income white noose” around the black inner city.”
As a result, that leaves us the task of rebuilding the community and ensuring that families aren’t displaced.
Median household income in Larimer: Less than $25,000/yr.
We wish we could get the shovel(s) in the ground that fast. So do Larimer’s residents.
Rather than engage in the hard work of community-based development that gains equity for low-income homeowners, broadens the tax base and addresses the segregating effect of the City’s low-income housing practice,…
You’re correct in part… The City’s low-income housing is segregated. Again, let’s fix that.
I would be absolutely remiss if I didn’t respond to this:
Outside influences DO want the land. Outside influences are trying to quietly buy up the land. It is the flattest, developable land in the City’s East End. It is surrounded by a resurgent East Liberty, Highland Park, Point Breeze, North Point Breeze and Shadyside.