Diverging voices

Foster-Pinkley was happy about the new landscaping that will be installed across the street from the front of her house but said her biggest flooding problem comes from Frankstown Avenue behind her house.

The flooding happens in an alleyway at the bottom of a valley where a stream likely used to be. Hiller acknowledged that the flooding behind Foster-Pinkley’s house matters more to her than the flooding issues in front of the house that UpstreamPgh’s new project is addressing. Even after UpstreamPgh has narrowed its focus to just a few blocks, there are more projects needed than they can do right away.

And, in some cases, the work may highlight other issues. Jessie Smith Foster and her husband are giving UpstreamPgh permission to do landscaping on an empty parcel of land across the street for UpstreamPgh’s project. Foster is Foster-Pinkley’s sister-in-law and raised children in the neighborhood. She is worried that once the Dornbush corner is rejuvenated with beautiful flowers, some of the adjacent empty lots will further stand out as eyesores, with abandoned cars, trucks and RVs.

Michael Hiller, the assistant director of Upstream, talks to a local resident who lives at the bottom of Dornbush Street about its new project. The neighbor offered his landscaping services. Photo by Quinn Glabicki/PublicSource.

Alex Ball, who grew up in the neighborhood and owns rental property and 12 storage garages there, was recruited by UpstreamPgh to become a “Climate Justice Leader.” Hiller said the mapping exercise helped them look at where to focus, and the Climate Justice program is an attempt to work with residents to figure out what kinds of projects to build there.

As part of the program, Ball said he has been learning about how climate change will impact the neighborhood. Two years ago, a flood wreaked havoc on a property he owns a couple of blocks away, and he hopes that a future UpstreamPgh project may help address that problem. Ball said he is working to help UpstreamPgh connect with local residents.

“I’ve been there, I was raised there and was from there, so a lot of the neighbors that are there, I’ve known them for a long time,” he said. “It’s always easier for an insider to get people involved than for an outsider to get people involved.”

*UpstreamPgh receives funding from the Heinz Endowments, which also supports PublicSource.

Oliver Morrison is PublicSource’s environment and health reporter. He can be reached at oliver@publicsource.org or on Twitter @ORMorrison