Thursday, September 15, 2016

City Council Preliminarily Approves Sale of Historic Hazelwood Library

By Glenn A. Walsh
Reporting for LibraryWatchtower

Yesterday morning (2016 September 14), Pittsburgh City Council preliminarily approved a bill (Bill 2016-0614) that would allow the sale, by the City of Pittsburgh to the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh (URA) for $1 each, several city properties including the historic Hazelwood Library building. The URA would then prepare the Library building, along with other properties included in the bill, for redevelopment and resale.

The nearly unanimous vote, which included one abstention, occurred during City Council's weekly meeting of Standing Committees. However, the vote did not occur before there was some heated debate regarding the role the URA should take, as opposed to the role of the City Planning Department, in the processing of these properties.

Speaking at the meeting of City Council's Finance and Law Committee, regarding this issue, were City Finance Director Paul Leger and URA Acting Executive Director Robert Rubinstein. Mr. Leger emphasized that if the City marketed these properties for sale, they would have to take the highest bidder at auction, without any consideration for neighborhood concerns. He said that the URA would provide for a community engagement process before the disposal of the properties.

City Councilwoman Deborah Gross said that the URA's process accelerates development. She believes development of the Strip District and Lawrenceville areas of her district is already too fast, and she wants this slowed-down by a better public participation process. Consequently, she asked that the six properties in her district be removed from Bill 2016-0614 (this does not include the historic Hazelwood Library).

There was much discussion over this request. Several of the other councilmen indicated that the URA public process was the best way to handle these properties. City Councilman Ricky V. Burgess said he would agree to Ms. Gross' request just this once; if and when the properties returned for a vote, he would then vote against her. By a unanimous vote, all six of the properties in Ms. Gross' district were removed from Bill 2016-0614.

Finance and Law Committee Chair Natalia Rudiak, who is Councilwoman for Council District 4 (South Hills), expressed deep concern regarding what would happen to the city functions that had to be displaced by these property sales and how much the displacements would cost.

North Side Councilwoman Darlene Harris, who cast the one abstaining vote on the preliminary final bill, was extremely skeptical regarding the value of the URA public process. She gave examples when people in her district disagreed with URA actions on the North Side.

Councilwoman Harris said that the City Law Department had already confirmed to her that the historic Carnegie Free Library of Allegheny, located in Allegheny Center next to the historic Buhl Planetarium, could not be legally sold by the City. As with the historic Hazelwood Library, the historic Allegheny Library was abandoned by Carnegie Library in the last decade, in favor of newer, down-sized library branches. She said that the City Law Department is still conducting research, regarding whether the historic Hazelwood Library can legally be sold by the City.

A final vote on Bill 2016-0614 is expected, by City Council, during their regular weekly meeting on Tuesday Morning, 2016 September 20 at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Daylight Saving Time (EDT) / 14:00 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC).

During the Public Comment segment at the beginning of the Standing Committees meeting, both city activist David Tessitor, Founder of the Pittsburgh Free-Net, and long-time library advocate Glenn A. Walsh, who served as a Life Trustee on the Board of Trustees of the Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall in Carnegie PA (1995 to 2000), spoke against the proposed sale of the historic Hazelwood Library. The following are the prepared comments of Glenn A. Walsh:

Statement before the      Glenn A. Walsh
    Council of                     P.O. Box 1041
    The City of                    Pittsburgh PA 15230-1041 U.S.A..
    Pittsburgh:                    Telephone: 412-561-7876
Proposed Sale of              E-Mail: < >           
Historic                               Web Site: <  >
Hazelwood Branch Bldg.,
              Blog: < >
Carnegie Library                2016 September 14

Good morning, I am Glenn A. Walsh, 633 Royce Avenue, Mt. Lebanon. Today I am speaking as a private citizen representing no organization.

I support reuse of the historic Hazelwood Library building, including the large auditorium. However, I oppose Bill 614 which would allow the City of Pittsburgh to sell-off the historic structure.

Bill 614 specifically states: “…conveying AS IS all of the City's right, title and interest, if any, in designated City-owned properties to the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh ("URA") for consideration of $1.00 each…” Once this conveyance occurs, the City of Pittsburgh, and the people’s duly-elected representatives in this Council, no longer have any control over what happens to the building.

The City should seek reuse of the Hazelwood Library building the same way it sought reuse of the historic Buhl Planetarium building in 2002---by long-term lease. This way, the City retains control of the historic structure for the benefit of city residents.

I would have no problem with the URA, or a community group such as the Hazelwood Initiative, leasing the building from the City and reusing it. However, Andrew Carnegie gave this building to the City for a public purpose, and the building should always be owned by the City, so the people of Pittsburgh will always have a say in what happens to the building.

It is just plain crazy for this Council to give-up continuing control over this building, simply because the Planning Department may not have the resources for a proper public process. If the Planning Commission cannot do this, then contract-out the public process to the URA and keep the building as City property. Do not give-up a valuable piece of City property simply because the URA can do something the Planning Commission cannot do!

Thank you.


Internet Links to Additional Information ---

Bill Number 2016-0614, which proposes to sell historic Hazelwood Library building to URA for $1:
Link >>>

Hazelwood Library Photo Album:
Link >>>

Save Hazewood Library: Link >>>

Related Blog Posts ---

"Historic Hazelwood Library Public Hearing." 2016 Sept. 13.

Link >>>

"Proposed Sale of Historic Hazelwood Library: Public Hearing Thursday."

2016 Sept. 5.

Link >>>


"Keep Historic Hazelwood Library as City Property." 2016 Aug. 18.

Link >>>


Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for LibraryWatchtower.
             2016 Sept. 14.

                                                               Historic 10-inch Siderostat-type Refractor Telescope at Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science.
        2016: 75th Year of Pittsburgh's Buhl Planetarium Observatory
     Link >>>

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Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
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* West End Branch, The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh: >
* Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall, Carnegie PA: >
* Civil War Museum of Andrew Carnegie Free Library:
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* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
  < >
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
  < >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
  < >
Duquesne Incline cable-car railway, Pittsburgh:
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* Public Transit:
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