Squirrel Hill Urban Coalition to spread word about efforts through magazine

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Although the Squirrel Hill Urban Coalition was founded in 1972, it's a fair bet that a lot of East End residents -- even those in Squirrel Hill -- are unfamiliar with what the nonprofit group does.

But coalition President Steve Hawkins, speaking at the organization's recent annual meeting, said he hoped that soon, everyone in the East End would know about the group and its work.

The coalition took over publication of Squirrel Hill Magazine Monday from Dalmo Optical owner Morris Grossman, who had published it since 2003.

Mr. Hawkins said the magazine reaches 19,000 homes and 1,500 businesses in the 15232 and 15217 ZIP Codes, and the coalition hopes to expand its reach into 15208.

He said the quarterly publication, which has focused on promoting local businesses, will now include more articles about Squirrel Hill and surrounding communities and more information about coalition's activities.

Those activities cover a wide range of projects intended to fulfill the group's mission, "preserving and improving the quality of life in the 14th Ward [made up of Squirrel Hill and parts of Point Breeze, Regent Square and Swisshelm Park]."

There's the Litter Patrol, which meets periodically to conduct cleanups and organize volunteers. Chairwoman Bicky Goldszer said that in addition to placing 20 cigarette butt receptacles in the area, the committee recently received a Keep America Beautiful grant for $7,500.

Andy Dlinn appealed at the meeting for volunteers for the Citizens Patrol, which serves as extra eyes for Zone 4 police. Mr. Dlinn said the program, which began in 1995, has saved people's lives, but he conceded it has become a victim of its own success.

"It's nothing like it used to be," he said, referring to the relatively low number of crimes committed in the Squirrel Hill area. "But that just means we're doing our jobs."

Coalition Treasurer Wayne Gerhold pointed out the coalition's Long-Range Planning Committee was in some measure responsible for the construction of the site of the meeting, which was in the Community Center of Summerset at Frick Park.

In the late 1980s, the coalition gathered $75,000 to fund a community development plan. Called "Directions for Our Future: The Master Plan, 1990-2010," it set out several recommendations that have since been adopted, including building an urban community on the Nine Mile Run slag heap.

Mr. Gerhold said he brought the report to then-councilman and Squirrel Hill resident Bob O'Connor, who later became mayor, and said part of the plan became Summerset.

"To his credit," said Mr. Gerhold, "he didn't just put it on his bookshelf."

The most active committee of late has been the urban forest committee It was formed in January in response to residents' concerns about the city's plan to cut down thousands of trees, including more than 500 in Squirrel Hill.

Committee head Martha Isler said the city put a moratorium on removing trees after meeting with East End residents in January, but added most of the trees slated for removal are diseased or unsound and eventually will be cut down.

Ms. Isler said the committee is working with the nonprofit Friends of the Pittsburgh Urban Forest to come up with ways to deal with the loss of the trees, including securing funding for replacement trees and training residents to become "tree tenders."

Also at the meeting, reports were given by the education committee, which monitors area schools' performance, and the residential quality committee, charged with watching over zoning and construction issues.

Mr. Hawkins reminded attendees that the coalition's Citizens of the Year dinner, its biggest fundraiser, will take place Oct. 16. He also agreed to serve another year as president.

Before adjourning, he added that Squirrel Hill Magazine was bound to increase the group's visibility.

"People aren't going to have to ask what the coalition does anymore," he said. "They'll know."

The coalition maintains an office in the Wightman School Community Building, 5604 Solway St. It meets the third Tuesday of each month at the Children's Institute, 1405 Shady Ave. For more information, call 412-422-7666 or go to www.shuc.org.

Kate Luce Angell is a freelance writer.


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