Tube City Almanac

June 24, 2008

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Category: Hardscrabble Mon Valley Watch, Mon Valley Miscellany, Rants a.k.a. Commentary || By

Almanac photo/Jason Togyer

It's about time that Downtown finally got its own lighthouse. Too many ocean liners have foundered on the shoals of the Youghiogheny.

Next, someone needs to stop those sirens in Dravosburg from luring sailors to their deaths.

I keed, I keed. Actually, the lighthouse, funded by private donations, was erected at the McKees Point Marina on Water Street in memory of the late city councilman and Mayor Joe Bendel.

Bendel was among the people who had the vision and foresight to push for the marina's construction, over strenuous objections from some residents and political rivals.

The lighthouse is a little bit incongruous, to be sure --- what's next, lobster traps? --- but it sure does look neat.

Almanac photo/Jason Togyer

It's odd to think that the marina was a controversial idea. There were many people who objected on principle --- they thought any recreational opportunities should be handled by the private sector.

That's true enough, except that no one in the private sector was doing anything to develop the city's riverfront.

There was a bigger group of people who objected on the grounds that it was a waste of time.

"McKeesport's dead," they said. "Who would want to come to here?"

It was the same group of bellyachers who sits around complaining because there's no place to shop Downtown, but who never shopped Downtown when stores were open, or who complain about corruption, crime and taxes, but haven't lived in the Mon Valley since the Jakomas administration.

Almanac photo/Jason Togyer

Marina Manager Ray Dougherty told city council in May that just about everyone who had a slip in McKeesport last year has returned this year. (Although someone jokingly said to me the other day that even if they put their boat in the water, they might just have to sit at the dock, because they can't afford fuel.)

The answer to the question, "Who wants to come to McKeesport?" turns out to be "a lot of people," if you give them something worth coming for, if you behave professionally, and if you promote the city.

In general, the Mon Valley could use more "do'ers" who are planning for the future, and fewer "complainers" who talk about all of the things we've lost, but never try anything new.

Almanac photo/Jason Togyer

I don't have a boat myself, but ain't that a pretty sight?

If you sort of squint and block out the abandoned Penn-McKee Hotel, you could imagine you're up in the Allegheny National Forest, not in Downtown McKeesport.

And now for the ugly.

Almanac photo/Jason Togyer

Here comes the sun on Fifth Avenue, and the pigeons of McKeesport and winos drinking MD 20/20 out of paper bags both need a new place to sit.

So, farewell, then, to the remnants of one of the Mon Valley's worst-ever public works projects ... and that's saying a lot.

The concrete arches of the old Midtown Plaza Mall parking garage are finally down, and Fifth Avenue will be restored to two-way traffic later this year.

Almanac photo/Jason Togyer

Now, it's up to developer Barry Stein to rehabilitate the remaining section of the mall, rechristened the "Boulevard Shops," as in "Lysle."

There's been little progress since Subway, Jackson Hewitt, Pizza Hut and Dollar Bank relocated, but I'm told the ugly arches discouraged potential tenants, and I'm taking Stein at his word that everything else will get a makeover soon, too.

If it inspires some other property owners Downtown to remodel and market their buildings, it's all for the better.

It doesn't help, by the way, that every reporter who comes to the city feels it's necessary to mention that the Downtown area is "economically devastated" and "mostly abandoned."

(Gee, thanks, Moriah Balingit. We hadn't noticed. By the way, you left out "hardscrabble.")

No, we don't need a lighthouse as a warning beacon for boaters.

We need it to attract more "do'ers" and fewer doubters.

"Yes, we can," isn't just the motto of a political candidate, after all.

Your Comments are Welcome!

Thank you composing a very good column today. The pictures of the docks along the Yough depict the beauty of our region. Now it is up to US to get McKeesport back on track. We have our share of complainers who refuse to look forward. Kudos to Mayor Brewster who is working hard at changing our tarnished image. Perhaps we can enjoy the festivities on July 5th to just come down to listen to the talented Clairton musician Spider Rondenelli play some jazz.
Donn Nemchick - June 25, 2008

You forgot the Leviathan at the Braddock dam and the Euroclydon that often blows down the Monongahela, forcing ships to run aground at Clairton.
Does it matter? - June 25, 2008

Beautiful pics of the marina. For some reason I am kinda sad to see the Midtown Tunnel go. Don’t ask me why. Maybe some neon lighting around either entrance and brighter lighting inside could have spruced it up. Hopefully the revamped Boulevard Shops will bring some new business in.
The Dude - June 25, 2008

Isn’t the black & white spiral paint job on the lighthouse meant to evoke one of those Outer Banks ones that every single last Western Pennsylvanian flocks to like druids to Stonehenge? :) OBX, baby.
Julie M - June 25, 2008

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