The newly-formed Garfield chapter of Action United led state and local government representatives on a walking tour Thursday of the neighborhood that, like others in Pittsburgh, is struggling with the effects of blight.
“Safety, roads, sidewalks, things for the kids to do,” said Marquise Williams, chapter president, “I feel like if kids had more to do a lot of the crime and a lot of the stuff would decline because there’s more activities for the kids to do.”
The tour included representatives from Pittsburgh Public Schools, the Pittsburgh police and local and state lawmakers’ offices. The goal was not only to highlight struggling areas, but also to point out areas of opportunity.
“You have a lot of vacant lots, you have a lot of overgrown trees, broken sidewalks and a lot of these challenges can become opportunities for green solutions,” said Bill Bartlett, regional director for Action United.
Those solutions include installing permeable cement sidewalks to absorb rain water and constructing rain gardens. But funding remains an issue.
Bartlett said when residents have complained about overgrown trees or other issues, they have been told there isn’t adequate city funding to address the issue. In addition to sidewalk and road improvements, community members are hoping for action on the now-shuttered Fort Pitt Elementary School.
“They say this school needs to be reopened,” Bartlett said, “if not as a school then as some sort of community resource that we have a voice in creating.”
That voice is key. Williams said his main goal right now is to be heard by local and state officials. With a new Pittsburgh mayor coming on board soon, he said the hope is to open a meaningful dialogue with the city and with neighboring communities.
“We all have the same issues,” Williams said. “We all have the same struggles one way or another, so if we come together and work on it, I think we can make this world a better place.”