Saturday, December 29, 2007

City Council fumbles historic building - abandon buildings rise

Glenn A. Walsh reported:
Thursday morning, Pittsburgh City Council approved a resolution which will allow The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh to abandon America's first publicly-funded Carnegie Library, the Allegheny Regional Branch of The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (originally, the Carnegie Free Library of Allegheny).

The vote was 7 in favor, 1 opposed. City Councilwoman Darlene Harris, whose district the historic Allegheny Regional Branch is located within, was the lone dissenting vote. She stated that she had to vote against this bill, as the majority of her constituents oppose the abandonment of the historic library. Beyond this statement, she did not make much of a fuss. As a new councilwoman with limited influence, she could "read the political tea-leaves" and realize that the rest of City Council considered this a done-deal.

Bill number 2007-1944, now approved, allows the City's Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) to sell a vacant piece of land on Federal Street (which formerly held a gasoline station), three blocks north of the Allegheny Regional Library, to The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh for construction of a new library building. The groundbreaking for this structure, which was postponed from last Autumn, is now expected in the Spring of 2008.

In addition to Councilwoman Harris' comments, five members of the public also addressed City Council prior to the final vote, all opposing the abandonment of the Allegheny Regional Branch: Yvonne F. Brown, Mark Rauterkus, John Petrack, David Tessitor, and Glenn A. Walsh. Along with the printed statement I submitted to City Council, I included a letter from Heather Steed, who could not attend the meeting, also opposing the abandonment of the Allegheny Regional Library. I want to thank all of those people who have been supportive of retaining a library use for the historic Allegheny Regional Library.

Future action on this issue is indefinite. We are still evaluating the feasibility of a legal challenge to the City's action yesterday.

We still believe that, even if a new library is to be built, the Allegheny Regional Library should be reopened until such a new library is completed. So far, the Lower North Side has been without library service for more than a year and a-half. And, this is despite the fact that $2 million of insurance money was used to repair the damage from the lightning strike, and annual funding from the State and the Allegheny Regional Asset District (RAD) continues to be available for Lower North Side library service.

It is unknown what has become of the State and RAD subsidies, allocated for the Allegheny Regional Library, since the closure of the Library in April of 2006; library repairs were completed in May of this year. We do plan to address the RAD Board of Directors on this issue, next month.

You can read more about yesterday's City Council votes, including my public statement and Heather Steed's letter, at this link.

History and photos of the Allegheny Regional Library

Continue to use the following web site for updates on this issue.

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