My last blog spoke about how the residents of Brookline need to step up and assume responsibility for the neighborhood's rebound, from business hours to rent to support by the community. In this one I'd like to address the idea that the City of Pittsburgh bears a little responsibility for the failure and decay of some of its neighborhoods as well--Brookline among them.
The rebuild project of Brookline Boulevard is a huge step in the right direction, and last summer Mayor Ravenstahl presented a small business grant to the community, but is this all too little too late? For far too long the basic upkeep of Brookline--I'm talking things as fundamental as road maintenance--have gone ignored by the city at large.
I'll put you an example. Just recently, one of the streets in the neighborhood was completely repaved. This only happened after decades of willful neglect: one resident of the area called the city years ago to request that the road, in deplorable condition, be re-paved, and was bluntly told, "You're not on our priority list."
In many ways that sums up the city's historical attitude towards Brookline. "You're not on our priority list."
"But wait!" some will argue, "How about the financing for the Boulevard rebuilding project?" Yes, the city did finally step up for that...but it took until January of 2012 for it to come up and meet preapproval, and construction isn't starting till March 2013. How many years has the Boulevard gone neglected, potholes barely filled?
Going back to the recently-repaved street, when the city finally did repave it, they did it halfway--that is, they put down a base layer without putting a finishing layer on top--and let it sit for several months without finishing the job. By the time they showed up to finish it, the base layer had decayed until there were potholes that were more akin to sinkholes all along the sidewalks, and several cars had blown tires there, at least one with a full-on bent rim. It's this sort of lacksadaisical, "we'll get to it when we get to it; just be glad we're doing anything," attitude that the city has shown towards Brookline that makes it difficult for the residents to show community spirit. When you have to dodge potholes every time you drive on any street, when you have to wait days for a snowplow because every street in your neighborhood is considered a "secondary" or "tertiary" road, it's tough to feel pride in your surroundings. Brookline is the third largest neighborhood in Pittsburgh, with a broad and diverse community, and it should be treated with due consideration as such.
I expect it's only because of local luminaries such as Natalya Rudiak on City Council that we're finally getting some attention, and that's just wrong. Perhaps if City Council would pay a bit more attention to Brookline, put a little more effort into the neighborhood, Port Authority wouldn't have slashed our bus service from multiple routes down to one, which has made it difficult for some older and handicapped residents to get to the bus stops, now. Sure, there's a T stop at the bottom of McNeilly Road, but it's not exactly within a close walk to many houses, and where would one park their car if they wanted to catch the T there? The McNeilly T stop doesn't count, to be frank.
Note that I'm not saying they should get rid of it--gods forbid they take anything else from Brookline. Nor am I placing Port Authority's mismanagement woes on the city (at least, not entirely--that's a subject for another blog at another time). What I am saying is that while a lot of that is on the mismanagement of Port Authority, consider that if Brookline were seen as a priority for the city, it probably would've been seen as one to public transit as well. It's sort of a domino effect. If we're not a priority for the city, we're not going to be a priority for many other services, either.
In short, we should be thankful to have a few representatives from our area on City Council, but fear the day when they're no longer there and the city just forgets about us all over again. As a city neighborhood, we have to be able to count on the city to support our basic infrastructure or nobody will look at Brookline as a valid destination. Other recently-rebuilt areas (East Liberty comes to mind) could not have gotten where they have without significant support from City Council, and it's important for we residents to make sure the council keeps listening.
Certainly there's enough of us to make sure our voices get heard. Squeaky wheel and grease, or something like that.