Tube City Almanac

September 09, 2014

GTECH: Why We're Working in McKeesport

Category: Another Viewpoint || By James Snow

(The following is a guest commentary. Opinions expressed in commentaries are those of individual authors, and are not necessarily those of Tube City Community Media Inc., its directors or volunteers)

Image courtesy GTECH Strategies

This fall, 10 McKeesport residents have the opportunity to clean and green vacant lots in their neighborhood. This is GTECH Strategies' first vacant land Ambassador program outside of the City of Pittsburgh.

Why did we choose to work with the City of McKeesport to create new community green spaces?

1. The vacant land. There are lots of vacant lots in the City of McKeesport. More precisely, there are more than 2,500 vacant parcels of land; that number grows every month with each vacant house torn down.

Vacant land is a detriment to communities. Reports suggest that they attract crime and create other public safety issues. (In another study, violent crime rates were shown to decrease up to 8 percent near greened, former vacant lots.)

From an economic standpoint vacant land decreases property values, possibly up to as much as 20 percent (PDF). There are a lot of good reasons (PDF) to focus on cleaning and greening vacant land. (And GTECH is here to help!)

2. The people. Admittedly, I had never been to McKeesport prior to this year and that was certainly a mistake on my part. Since working in the community, I have encountered a group of passionate and determined individuals who are working together to strengthen their community.

Groups like the McKeesport S.H.I.P, The Kiwanis Club, The Lions Club and the McKeesport Trail Commission, just to name a few, are doing some pretty amazing work in the community and being able to be a small part of that work is a real honor.

3. The government. While not always on the top of everyone's favorites list, the municipal staff at the City of McKeesport have not only been supportive, but have gone above and beyond to make sure that the next Ambassador model goes smoothly. Mayor Michael Cherepko recently announced that a summer program that employed youth throughout McKeesport was able to clean and clear 150 vacant lots. We are excited at GTECH to compliment existing programs like this one.

4. The history. McKeesport has a lengthy and fascinating history that makes it the City it is today. Settled by John McKee in the late 1700s, the area was frequented by George Washington, as he stopped by to visit Queen Aliquippa, a local Seneca ruler. Years later, after National Tube Company opened in 1872, the US Census Bureau cited McKeesport as the fastest growing municipality in the nation. McKeesport was also home to the very first G.C. Murphy five and ten cent store.

In April of 1947, Richard Nixon and John F Kennedy famously held the first of five debates in the Penn McKee Hotel, which still stands in downtown McKeesport. Pretty impressive!

5. The potato pancakes. The potato pancakes at this year's International Village were hands down some of the best I have ever had. Ever.

What is your favorite part about McKeesport? Let us know.

In the meantime, if you want to find out more about the ReClaim McKeesport program, or apply yourself, visit

James Snow is the project manager for ReClaim McKeesport. The photo shows a community garden in Pittsburgh's Knoxville neighborhood created by the Rev. Cheryl Ruffin, pastor of St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, as well as a GTECH ambassador.

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Opinions expressed in commentaries are those of individual authors, and are not necessarily those of Tube City Community Media Inc., its volunteers or directors.

Tube City Community Media is committed to printing viewpoints from residents of McKeesport and the surrounding area. To submit a commentary, email tube city tiger at gmail dot com, or write to Tube City Online, P.O. Box 94, McKeesport 15134.

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