Twenty-five years ago, the borough of Wilkinsburg created its "Moving Toward the Future" communitywide plan, which protected public open spaces and provided public space for recreation and relaxation for residents. Public records show that as officials granted building rights to developers (who generally live outside affected communities) they designated public spaces to fulfill this policy.
But these promises of public space are being traded away as cash-strapped local governments yield to pressure from business interests. With little public scrutiny, the Wilkinsburg Board of Education proposes to sell Green Street Mini-Park to help offset the district's budget shortfall. To allow the sale, the park has been designated "vacant land," despite the fact that residents use and help maintain it.
What we're seeing in Wilkinsburg is just more evidence that our democracy is in deep trouble. Pennsylvania recently passed legislation to allow the state to appoint managers to take over failing (i.e., poor) local school districts, removing authority from elected officials. Here and elsewhere, financial considerations trump democracy and community needs. It's time for residents to stand up and defend our schools and public spaces before it's too late!
Note: Due to pressure from residents, there will now be an administrative hearing to determine the fate of Green Street Mini-Park. The hearing is Thursday, May 16, at 1:45 p.m. at the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas (414 Grant St., No. 700). Objections must be filed by today to Matthew Hoffman, Esq., Tucker Arensberg, P.C., One PPG Place, No. 1500, Pittsburgh, Pa. 15222.