Clean Commission's first effort focuses on Hazelwood

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The Clean Pittsburgh Commission is devoting the next year to improving quality of life in Hazelwood, the latest layer of attention to the neighborhood where earth movers are laying the groundwork for new development at the former LTV Steel site along the Monongahela River.

The commission is bringing to the task its members in building code enforcement; litter, graffiti and blight control; and the nonprofits Allegheny CleanWays, whose mission is to clear large dump sites, and the Pennsylvania Resources Council.

They are introducing their work to the Center of Life’s summer camp students and taking them on field trips to teach them how litter ends up in rivers, why rivers and other watersheds need to be protected and how composting helps gardens grow.

Then-Mayor Tom Murphy established the Clean Pittsburgh Commission in 2005 to combine city efforts with those of nonprofit organizations that were committed to litter and dump-site cleanups.

The commission’s recent strategic plan calls for it to target one neighborhood each year. Hazelwood is the first.

At the same time, the commission is tracking code enforcement with the Bureau of Building Inspection’s help.

“We have looked at the complaints filed, how they have moved through the system, what the disposition was and what remains stagnant,” said Sarah Alessio Shea, the commission’s chairwoman.

“The plan is to develop a template for use in the next neighborhoods we focus on.”

Like the Heinz Endowments in initiating a Hazelwood-focused investment in 2012, the commission and its member groups found their partners at the Hazelwood Initiative, a community development corporation, and the Center of Life, a youth training nonprofit at the Keystone Church.

It has a lot less money to pour into its project than Heinz did with its $3.25 million over three years.

The commission is depending on the resources of its member nonprofits and the city, plus a $250 gift from the Bob O’Connor Foundation.

“Things like this don’t cost a lot,” said the Rev. Tim Smith, founder and executive director of the Center of Life.

“We have done a lot of work with Duquesne University students participating in community cleanups and other beautification projects for years. We still have a good number of abandoned lots, and we are working on cleaning those.”

He said “people are starting to recognize” the commitment residents already have made to improve the neighborhood, including anti-litter groups and block clubs that work on beautification and code enforcement.

The Heinz Endowment’s investment prompted community groups to band together as the Greater Hazelwood Community Collaborative, in part to make sure no one’s voice was lost in expressing how development and large sums of money affect the neighborhood, he said.

As part of this larger effort, city Councilman Corey O’Connor asked Allegheny CleanWays for help in clearing garbage from dump sites and overgrown lots with $5,000 of Community Development Block Grant money.

“We started surveying the sites at the beginning of July,” said CleanWays executive director Myrna Newman.

“We are also doing a block-by-block survey. We might have enough money to do lived-in areas” but not enough for those and for non-residential areas of vegetation.

Diana Nelson Jones: or 412-263-1626.

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