Tube City Almanac

June 27, 2008

Tick, Tick, Tick

Category: Events, History, Rants a.k.a. Commentary || By

I wasn't able to attend this week's hearing on the city's proposal to demolish several buildings --- including the Penn-McKee Hotel and the old Eagles lodge --- but from talking to witnesses, it sounds like things were pretty contentious regarding the latter building.

My sources tell the Almanac that Henry Russell Jr. of MHI Inc., the listed owner of the Eagles since 1991, and city solicitor Jason Elash exchanged sharp words over the building's condition.

Maryann Huk of the McKeesport Preservation Society reportedly testified that she has nominated both structures for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places, but no property owner testified on behalf of the Penn-McKee.

Meanwhile, someone recently accused me of being "unsympathetic" to preservation efforts in the city.

If you've been reading the Almanac for a while, you know that I am absolutely unsympathetic to anyone who wants to preserve McKeesport history. I also foreclose on orphanages and tie widows to train tracks while twirling the ends of my mustache and cackling.

No, gentle reader, I am not unsympathetic, but I'm also not an idiot. Everyone wants to preserve the Hitzrot house and the Penn-McKee, but none of the responsible parties have made any tangible moves.

City council still has to vote on whether to demolish these buildings, possibly at its meeting next Wednesday. Then the contracts will have to go to bid.

That means that the clock is running, but time hasn't run out.

If the people who want to save these structures are serious, they will immediately start raising money, hire engineering and legal help, and apply for the appropriate permits.

Or, they will turn the buildings over to someone who can afford to save them, and who is willing to jump through the proper legal hoops.

But if they fail to act, and the buildings fall down or are demolished, they will have no one to blame but themselves.

. . .

Almanac file photoMeanwhile: The Italian millionaire who owns St. Stephen's Hungarian Church on Beacon Street is in jail.

As the Almanac reported last July, St. Stephen's and several other Catholic churches in the Diocese of Pittsburgh were sold to a company controlled by Raffaello Follieri, a playboy whose family has close ties to the Vatican.

Well, federal officials in New York arrested Follieri on Tuesday and charged him with fraud and money laundering.

In other words, another historic building in McKeesport is apparently owned by someone with no means of repairing or marketing it.

That's just swell.

How long before St. Stephen's falls into disrepair, and the city starts making plans to demolish it? I say two years.

. . .

To Do This Weekend: Amateur radio operators from around the world will participating in annual "Field Day" exercises, including members of the city's Two Rivers Amateur Radio Club. They'll be up along Carpenter Lane in White Oak Park, near the water tower.

McKees Point Marina, Water Street at Fifth Avenue, will host a free concert by the classic rock/country group Steeltown from 2 to 6 p.m. Saturday. All ages are welcome; organizers recommend bringing a blanket or lawn chair. Call (412) 678-6979 for more information.

Chuck Blasko's Vogues will perform at the Renziehausen Park bandshell at 7 p.m. Sunday as part of the city's free summer concert series. Call (412) 675-5068.

Finally, Animal Friends hosts a rabies clinic for dogs and cats three months of age and older at city Fire Station No. 2, Eden Park Boulevard, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday. Cost is $10; all dogs must be on leashes, and cats in carriers. Call (412) 847-7076.

Your Comments are Welcome!

“That means that the clock is running, but time hasn’t run out.”

The owners of these will have plenty of time waiting for the City of McKeesport to act. It seems that the City doesn’t do anything quick or with determination.

You mentioned in the Almanac a few weeks ago about the condition of the ramp to the Dravosburg bridge and still nothing has been done to clean up that area. It seems that the city won’t act until a Pittsburgh television station shows up with a camera. You would think that the city would want a main entry point to our fair city to not look like a tornado just went through.
Chris - June 27, 2008

Jason, keep on reporting the news about these dilapidated, obsolete buildings that are keeping our area blighted and unattractive to investors/businesses. We all need to get off the snide and restore McKeesport to it’s once proud status. We can not save buildings that have no function other than a historical landmark. Who in their right mind would keep a rat trap? Come on folks…let us move forward or we will wallow in the past to no avail. Keep up the good work Jason, we are supportive of your penetrating journalism.
Donn Nemchick - June 28, 2008

Donn: Your check is in the mail.
Webmaster - June 28, 2008

Jason, in the spirit of community – would you post the list of music groups performing at Renzie Park on the 4th of July? I plan on enjoying one of the best parks in this region for the holiday. Bringing chairs, liquid refreshments and a positive attitude to celebrate the nation’s birthday! You are welcome to join us !!
Donn Nemchick - June 30, 2008

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