Children offer their input on South Side neighborhood plan

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Bob Donaldson, Post-Gazette
Phillips Elementary School fifth-grader Tamia Johnson presents at an assembly yesterday her group's development ideas for the area around South 10th and East Carson streets on the South Side.
By Diana Nelson Jones, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

In Stephanie Moran's perfect park, a child would never get bored. Tired maybe, but never bored.

She was one of more than 60 fourth- and fifth-graders at Phillips Elementary whose input the South Side Planning Forum will incorporate into the latest revision of its neighborhood plan.

Yesterday, the students presented their ideas at a public assembly in the school gym on Sarah Street.

Josette Fitzgibbons, the city's principal planner, and Judy Dyda, manager of community planning for the South Side Local Development Corp., worked with the children for the past three weeks.

   
Listen in

Listen to excerpts of comments by Phillips Elementary student Stephanie Moran on neighborhood development

   

Ms. Fitzgibbons said she had attended Career Day at Phillips, her daughter's school, to speak about being a planner. She sought their ideas as junior planners, "and there were such good comments that I told Judy we should do a session with them." Those ideas were incorporated with a survey of 6,000 residents and 700 businesses.

The Planning Forum received a 10 percent return on the surveys sent out, "a tremendous response," said Ms. Dyda.

Rick Belloli, executive director of the local development corporation, said one or two more community meetings will complete the community input part of the neighborhood plan. "Then each constituent organization will get a copy for review. We're shooting for completion by late summer, early fall."

A town meeting Wednesday evening drew about 60 people to the South Side Market House.

The first neighborhood plan was hashed over for five years before being documented in 1990. Ever since, the various groups that belong to the Forum have gathered with residents and merchants to reconsider needs every two years.

Every constituent group agrees there are too many bars. It led the list on the survey of changes people would make. Police presence and graffiti were other top concerns. But under top issues, those surveyed named parking first, then bars and crimes against property.

"Bars have gotten all the headlines," said Ms. Dyda, "but there's a lot more going on here."

This was the first year children were consulted for the plan.

In working with the students, she and Ms. Fitzgibbons separated their challenge into sections. One was rethinking the uses of South Side park, which Ms. Dyda called a great, under-used asset.

In another segment, East Carson Street was reconsidered in three parts. The South Side Vo-Tech school was in one, the Market House in another and the Carnegie Library in another.

On one wall of the gym, maps of the park and the Carson segments showed the children's priorities based on where they placed stickers depicting everything from an airport and several varieties of trees to used car lots, stadiums, benches and row houses.

Among the lessons was that planning is a discriminating process.

The map Stephanie held up when she made her presentation was choc-a-bloc with little stickers depicting a great range of recreational activities, "but we also put in lots of trees and some deer."

The neighborhood plan is on file at the Carnegie Library on Carson Street, the Brashear Association and on the Web site www.southsidepgh.com.


Diana Nelson Jones can be reached at djones@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1626.


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