News

Is Pittsburgh’s Land Bank Operational? City Says Yes. Residents Disagree.

Sep 15, 2016
Natasha Khan / PublicSource

  Six Garfield residents pore over neighborhood maps inside a cramped office. They’re debating what properties and lots they could claim to expand a community park.

They are members of the Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation [BGC], and the properties they want to acquire are either tax-delinquent or vacant lots surrounding Fort Pitt Playground.

With an expanded “Garfield Park,” the community can reclaim forgotten homes and lots and put them to productive use, all while returning them to the tax roll.

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh Police Zone 2 Commander Anna Kudrav rented awhile, then bought her own wheels. Riding a bicycle calms her, she said.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Under a tent in a Canonsburg parking lot Wednesday, the free hamburgers and chips flowed like shale gas through Washington County.

The food was there to feed a few hundred supporters of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at his new volunteer center, located in an office building.  

Many of them held hand-made signs reading, “Deplorables for Trump.”

Bayer's Monsanto Creates Global Chemical And Agriculture Giant

Sep 14, 2016
Markus Schreiber / AP

The U.S. seedmaker Monsanto agreed to a $57 billion buyout offer from Germany's Bayer in a deal that would create a global agricultural and chemical giant.

The deal comes with record harvest driving crop prices to painfully low levels for farmers.

It was the third time in four months that Bayer returned with a richer offer to sell the acquisition to Monsanto, and hopefully, its shareholders.

Including debt, the deal is valued at $66 billion. If approved, Monsanto will continue to be based in St. Louis.

Inspectors Saw Corrosion On Pipeline Years Before Explosion

Sep 14, 2016
Reid Frazier / 90.5 WESA

In 2012,  Spectra Energy inspectors saw it: a patch of corrosion that had eaten away at a 30-inch pipeline in Salem Township, Pennsylvania. But company officials said Tuesday that they didn’t replace the pipe because they didn’t expect the “anomaly” they saw to grow so quickly. A subsequent investigation of the stretch of the Texas Eastern pipeline revealed that the corrosion grew five times faster than what the company expected. Spectra officials are still trying to figure out why.

Virginia Alvino / 90.5 WESA

 

Watching Abdullah Salem manage his staff of half-a-dozen men behind a Strip District counter, it’s clear who runs the show. 

“We’ve been working since yesterday, 6 a.m. straight, ‘til now,” said Salem, 35. “We still have six cattle to cut, and then we’ll be done.”

Natasha Khan / PublicSource

Through the dated kitchen and a hallway with a gaping hole, past the stacks of dusty Bibles and art history books, a grand staircase snakes through the old mansion. Cracked vases are strewn at the foot of the landing — at one time, the homeowner was a collector.

Matt Rourke / AP

 

Last June, nearly 200 members of the state House of Representatives and Gov. Tom Wolf pushed for a special legislative session to address the opioid crisis that has killed more than 5,000 Pennsylvanians in the past two years.

House Speaker Mike Turzai stood inside the Capitol rotunda just a few months ago.

"We will be asking the Governor to give this heightened attention by calling the General Assembly into special session," he said.

Point State Park join Pittsburgh 2030 District
Christopher Ayers / 90.5 WESA

Point State Park is one of the city’s greenest spots -- to the eye, at least. With its grass-covered path leading to the convergence of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers, forming the Ohio, it’s about as close to nature as one can get in the heart of Downtown. 

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

 

The solar panels shading the parking lot at the new Frick Environmental Center are expected to generate about 150,000 kilowatt hours of energy each year, approximately 10,000 kilowatt hours more than the building is expected to use. The excess will go right back to the electrical grid, according to Noah Shultas with PJ Dick, the construction company that oversaw the project.

Point Park University (L), The Incline (R)

 

Tuesday marks the official launch of two new media ventures in Pittsburgh.

MAD DADS Pittsburgh

This year marks a decade since a group of local men began a chapter of the national faith-based organization MAD DADS in the Pittsburgh region.

MAD DADS stands for Men Against Destruction, Defending Against Drugs and Social-Disorder and in the last 10 years, membership has grown from about a dozen members to nearly 60.

Membership is key to MAD DADS’ signature program, street patrol. It consists of members going out into neighborhoods to offer a positive social presence. They aim to address drugs, gangs and violence through conversation.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

A dumpster parked curbside, piled high with construction debris or outdated building guts, is not an uncommon city sight. But a certain dumpster just off one of Pittsburgh’s main business corridors is different. For starters, it’s painted bright yellow.

“We love the yellow,” says Phoebe Downey, project manager for Envision Downtown, a public-private partnership between the mayor’s office and the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership.

Could Shell's Ethane Cracker Erase Recent Gains In Air Quality?

Sep 13, 2016
Mark Dixon

Officials around the state are optimistic about the impact of Shell’s new ethane cracker on the local economy. It will bring thousands of construction jobs to western Pennsylvania and 600 permanent ones once it’s built along the Ohio River in Beaver County. The plant will produce 1.6 million tons of plastic a year out of the region’s natural gas.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

Landon DePaulo’s manniversary is Dec. 27, 2012.

That’s when he injected his first $100 shot of testosterone. It's a steep cost to look like himself, he said.

How Allegheny County Is Trying To Move On From The Legacy Of Blight

Sep 13, 2016
Connor Mulvaney / PublicSource

 

When Lena Andrews moved from Friendship to East Liberty, she was enamored with her new neighborhood’s array of restaurants and shops, easy access to transit and its diversity. The lack of parks and gardens puzzled her, though.

At the time, trash covered the corner of East Liberty Boulevard and Mellon Street: empty cans, bottles, fast-food paper bags. When the city mowers would cut the grass, they would mow right over the garbage, crushing it into the earth.

The litter sent the wrong message.

Coal Town Wary Of Clinton And Trump Campaign Promises

Sep 13, 2016
Marie Cusick / StateImpact Pennsylvania

Every year the King Coal parade winds through the center of Carmichaels. Hundreds of people line up to see the fire engines, classic cars, floats, and marching bands.

It’s fair to say the presidential race has people pretty fired up –and worried– in this small town in Greene County, about an hour’s drive south of Pittsburgh. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has promised to bring back coal, with few details on how he will accomplish it. Meanwhile, Democrat Hillary Clinton has said she’d put miners out of work, but is pushing a big plan to reinvest in coal communities.

Virginia Alvino / 90.5 WESA

An estimated 20 percent of Pennsylvanians don’t have access to computers or internet, but a new initiative is aiming to close the “digital divide.”

Rec2Tech brings tech opportunities into neighborhoods through afterschool programs.

The city, Sprout Fund and other partners are pairing learning organizations with some of the city’s recreation centers to provide more digital learning opportunities for youth. Rec2Tech launched Monday.  

Igor Spasic / Flickr

A nearly 40 percent increase in the number of reported cases of child abuse in Pennsylvania is straining the resources of county district attorneys' offices, with one prosecutor saying her staff is overwhelmed by the surging workload.

Prosecutors say they support a 2014 legislative overhaul of the state's child abuse law, which, among other things, expanded the definition of child abuse and made more adults legally responsible for reporting suspected cases of it.

But they're having trouble keeping up with the resulting surge in abuse claims.

Keith Srakocic / AP

  Changes are in store for Pennsylvania hunters taking to the state's 1.5 million acres of game lands this season, including new and canceled programs offered by the state Game Commission.

During the 2015-16 season, 937,000 hunters purchased licenses or mentored permits in Pennsylvania, a slight decrease from the previous year.

Game Commission statistics show that more than 10 percent of that number was from female purchasers, with 96,555 licenses or mentored permits bought by women or girls.

A tight budget has the Game Commission monitoring its spending.

AP

Officials with the Department of Human Services announced increased oversight for its major programs and said it’s paying off financially.

The department reported Thursday that savings increased by $65 million over the last fiscal year.

As DHS Secretary Ted Dallas explained, its programs can be complicated. 

Things like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, and other state benefits involve a lot of paperwork, and Dallas said administrative errors are relatively common.

State Starts Deciding On More Than $1B In Delayed Redevelopment Assistance Requests

Sep 12, 2016
Emily Previti / WITF

 

Nearly 400 agencies are waiting to hear from a long-standing, occasionally controversial grant program months past when they’d normally get word.

State officials have funneled more than $5 billion through the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program since its inception in 1986. 

Katie Meyer / WITF

This year, state legislators determined that the Department of Health would be responsible for reducing the backlog of untested rape kits. So far, department of health officials said that effort has not been successful.

Part of that agreement also stipulated that the Department of Health would ensure that local police departments submitted all of the untested kits.

National Parks Service

It’s been 15 years since United Airlines Flight 93 crashed in Shanksville, Pa. on Sept. 11. And the site which now houses the crash’s memorial has changed considerably.

Shipla / Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council

The Drap-Art International Festival of Recycled Art arrives in North America for the first time this month as part of Pittsburgh’s Re:NEW Festival.

The month-long event celebrates creative reuse and sustainability through art with more than 100 exhibitions throughout Downtown. It’s centered around the Drap-Art Festival, which is based out of Barcelona, Spain, but has been structured to include art with local environmentally-relevant themes.

Virginia Alvino / 90.5 WESA

Motorcycles revved and a crowd marched by the line wrapping around the Homewood Coliseum on Friday where former President Bill Clinton spoke on behalf of his wife and Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton.

Clinton’s visit fell on the same day as the funeral for a beloved pastor from the neighborhood. He offered condolences for the friends and relations of Reverend Eugene “Freedom” Blackwell, who died last month from cancer at the age of 43.

WESA/Matt Nemeth

A wide pot made of red, earthy clay is decorated with geometric details. Maybe it's an ancient artifact, a tool from the past in a glass case. But then you spot the silver cursive letters.

This piece is clearly contemporary.

Rose Tileston / Hidden Harvest

There are 600 fruit-bearing trees in Pittsburgh, according to the most recent municipal forest analysis in 2008. They line streets and grow in parks, but Hana Uman with the nonprofit 412 Food Rescue said much of that fruit rots.

“When we go and check out some of these trees, there’s just often fruit all over the ground,” she said. “So that is fruit that could have been used and just goes to waste.”

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 FM WESA

Alisa Grishman has dealt with the effects of Multiple Sclerosis, or MS, for 15 years. And though the Americans with Disabilities Act aims to make life easier for those with disabilities, she can find it frustrating.

“In my opinion, one of the failings of how the ADA was written is that it’s a complaint-driven law and you have to complain all the time,” said Grishman.

Sarah Koenig in Studio
Elise Bergerson / Press Photo

    

In June, a Baltimore judge vacated the conviction of Adnan Syed and ordered a new trial for the 35-year-old who's been incarcerated since being found guilty for the murder of his high school girlfriend 17 years ago.

If the case sounds familiar, you might be one of the millions who downloaded the first season of "This American Life’s" wildly successful spin-off podcast, "Serial." And if you never heard the show, chances are somebody you know did.

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