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Letter from the President – May 2017

So what are you doing on Tuesday evening?

The May meeting of the Allegheny West Civic Council (Tuesday, May 9th at 7:30 pm, in the Calvary Church) is packed with exciting new developments for our community — including FIVE new proposals for businesses and residences on Western Avenue!

There is great serendipity in the timing of these new developments for the center of our neighborhood — coming as they do exactly 55 years (to the month) after the founding of the Allegheny West Civic Council in May 1962. All five of these new plans come to our May Membership meeting with a positive endorsement from the AW Housing & Planning Committee. They include the dramatic transformation of a former problem bar, the rehabilitation of a property neglected for decades and our first new construction of single family houses in more than a quarter century. And those new houses will rise from currently vacant lots, in an attempt to replicate the appearance of the original houses on that site — demolished more than forty years ago!

This flurry of great new vitality for our neighborhood would undoubtedly have been beyond dreaming to the dozen long-ago residents who gathered on May 24, 1962 in the Community House of Calvary Church. Their goal was to find a way to shape and direct the fate of their tiny community, faced with grand plans by powerful outsiders for transforming all of the “lower Northside” into a cloned suburban utopia. The plan that was formed that night in 1962 was recorded as a single sentence: “Don’t sit back and complain — joint collective action gets results.”

Across the many years since that proclamation, those folks — and the hundreds who have succeeded them — have taken that mantra to heart. The people of Allegheny West have worked long and hard together to determine what we want for our part of Pittsburgh, as well as what we don’t want. We have articulated that vision to others persuasively, ceaselessly laboring to attract new companions who would embrace the challenge and become part of its realization. We have aggressively (and successfully) supported those new recruits in their efforts, even as we have aggressively (and successfully) opposed those whose efforts were contrary to our cause.

It is true that Allegheny West has a reputation for being tough. That attitude was born in 1955, when a handful of our predecessors resolved to protect and forge their own community in the face of overwhelming odds. That couldn’t happen without a willingness to take a responsible position and then stand your ground. Even more fundamental was their core belief that this neighborhood already is a great place to live and work and play. And for those who would diminish or jeopardize this place, they learned how to say “NO” — to government officials, institutions, developers, speculators and all manner of interlopers. The fruits of this unwavering conviction, and the courage to defend it, could not be more clearly visible than in these new development proposals being unveiled at our May 2017 Membership meeting this Tuesday.

Why would we spend endless energy and dollars fighting the abuses of a problem bar? The answer is on Tuesday night’s agenda. Why would we buy and hold vacant land for forty years, rejecting proposals for gravel parking lots and storage yards? The answer is on Tuesday night’s agenda. Why would we spend many millions of dollars and many years of volunteer lives saving and restoring derelict and burned-out buildings, again and again? Well you get the idea…

Please join us on Tuesday May 9 at 7:30. It isn’t often that you get to witness a victory 55 years in the making.

John DeSantis
President, AWCC

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