Posts Tagged ‘Pittsburgh’

Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Sun Sep 27th 2009 at 9:43am UTC

Pittsburgh’s Long Night

Sunday, September 27th, 2009

Quite a scene in Pittsburgh last night in the wake of the G-20 on Forbes Avenue, in front of the Carnegie Museum, a block or two away from the campuses of the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University. It’s literally two blocks from my old Heinz School office, a block from my favorite coffee shop, and three blocks from where I lived.

Picture by Radder Photos, flickr

Picture by Radder Photos, flickr

Here are some eyewitness reports from the Post-Gazette.

Drew Singer, editor of the student newspaper The Pitt News, watched the events from a window in the William Pitt Union, which has a view of Schenley Plaza. Two Pitt News photographers were among those arrested. “There were way more police than there were civilians, nonpolice,” he said. He said the police gave a loud order to disperse. He said police usually arrest people who are especially unruly, but Friday night, “it seemed like anybody who didn’t leave immediately was being arrested even if they were just kind of watching. Technically, they did not disperse.” He said some Pitt News reporters saw people passing out note cards earlier in the day at the permitted “People’s March to the G-20,” which announced a rally that night in Schenley Plaza. While there may have been protesters, he said, “I personally didn’t see a single protester. There was absolutely nothing like Thursday night. It was overwhelmingly spectators and people who just wanted to see what was going on. It seems like just after Thursday night, [police] just weren’t taking anything. They just weren’t up for any funny business. They gave the orders to disperse, and I guess anybody who didn’t immediately disperse they were going after, it seemed like.”

“It was all students and no protesters — it looked like any Friday night in Oakland but with more people,” said Nathan Lanzendorfer, 23, of Mt. Lebanon. He went to Oakland out of curiosity to see the protests. Shortly before midnight he was caught on Forbes Avenue, with police deploying OC gas from two directions. He was hit with a rubber bullet in his right leg and his left, started to run, and was then hit in an arm and his lower back. “I never heard any warning to leave the area — all four [rubber bullet] shots were within five seconds,” he said. “All the wounds on my back. If I was opposing [the police] at all you’d think I’d have a front wound.” Mr. Lanzendorfer went to UPMC Presbyterian for treatment of his contusions, one of which is softball-sized, he said.

Post-Gazette reporter Sadie Gurman, 24, was among those arrested on the Pitt Cathedral of Learning lawn.”I was arrested on the cathedral lawn while truly trying to get out of the fray,” she said. Ms. Gurman said she had gone to Schenley Plaza because of news alerts she received on her cell phone. At Schenley Plaza, she was talking with colleagues and others she had met while covering G-20 events. In the plaza, she said there was one person on a loudspeaker. Others were standing around talking, running or playing games, such as duck-duck-goose. She estimated the number of civilians in the plaza at about 200.

Much of the plaza was flanked by police officers. “There was definitely an energy that was very ominous at that point,” she said. Even as police ordered the crowd to disperse, Ms. Gurman said some people in the plaza stayed and chanted, “You’re sexy, you’re cute, take off your riot suit.” Ms. Gurman said she left the plaza and went onto Forbes Avenue.”I was trying to move in a way that would not be in their perimeter. I was walking on Forbes toward Craig Street to get out of it. Another police van pulled up. Additional officers in riot gear jumped out and said to ‘move back, move back’ and were pushing us the opposite direction back toward Bigelow.” She went that direction and ended up having to jump over bushes on the Cathedral lawn to get out of the way of police. “I thought I was OK there. The cops jumped over the bushes, too,” she said. She said a helicopter was overhead. With the cathedral behind a group of people, the police made a half circle and ordered people to lie down on the ground. “Some of the girls were hugging each other and crying, saying to the police, ‘Tell us how we can get out of here peacefully. We don’t want to be here, but you’ve trapped us.’ “She estimated about 30 people were put into a police vehicle. She was released about 10 hours after her arrest.

Ellyanna Kessler, an 18-year-old freshman, said she had been watching from her dormitory in Forbes Hall when police shot OC gas canisters onto the balcony of the residence. “Everybody got tear gassed,” she said.

Tracy Hickey, an 18-year-old freshman, said she had been arrested while watching the protest as an off-duty ACLU legal observer. When she realized that many of those being ordered to disperse had “nowhere to disperse to,” she saidheld open the door to a dormitory, ushering a crowd of screaming students into the residence. She said police then arrested her … By about 10:50 p.m., K-9 units and police with plastic shields had surrounded the plaza began to make arrests. Police fired OC gas canisters into a crowd of mostly students on the corner of Forbes and Bigelow. Many people ran down Forbes Avenue, coughing and screaming, as a line of police several officers deep stretched across the road and marched down the street, ordering the crowd to disperse. Some protesters taunted the police, he said. “How do you feel shooting students,” one yelled.

Peter Shell, co-chair of the Thomas Merton Center’s antiwar committee, said he had gone to Oakland Friday night to celebrate the day’s successful and peaceful People’s March to the G-20, which his organization had sponsored. When police made Mr. Shell leave Schenley Plaza, he was forced onto the Cathedral of Learning lawn. When he tried to leave via Fifth Avenue, he was surrounded, trapped and arrested, he said. “We tried going left, we tried going forward, we tried going right,” he said. “We wanted to disperse and they did not let us disperse.”

Molly Shea said she came to Pittsburgh to protest at the People’s March but wanted nothing to do with Friday night’s demonstration, she said. A 22-year-old senior at Ohio University, she was studying at Kiva Han coffee shop until about 10:45 p.m. Friday, when she left to look for her friends. She walked to the lawn next to the Cathedral of Learning to find them and soon realized she was surrounded by police, she said.”We kept asking them how we could leave, or if we could leave,” she said. “Most of them were unresponsive. Some of them just said no.”She was on a police wagon and then a bus for about five hours without water or a bathroom break, though many girls with her were asking for both, she said.”A few police officers were nice,” she said, “but for the most part, they were not.”She said one of the officers was “taking a lot of pride” in taking mug shots next to female detainees, and that other officers frequently used profanities specifically derogatory to women.”Some of them were making jokes when they were moving around from paddy wagon to paddy wagon about ‘getting the hot ones out,’” she said.She was released Saturday morning after being detained for about 10 hours, she said.

A 24-year-old member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, Army Sgt. Jeff Bartos had been deployed to Iraq as a medic in 2005. When he came to Pittsburgh this week from New Britain, Conn. to protest the G-20 summit, it was also as a medic.Friday night, he was helping to treat a reporter who had been exposed to OC gas near Schenley Plaza when he realized he was surrounded by police on all sides. He said he was corralled with about 40 “pretty nervous, ‘What-are-we-doing-here’ protesters” as well as “random college kids,” including a girl who had been jogging through the park when she was trapped. He said he was charged with disorderly conduct and released about 6 p.m. Saturday.

Jordan Romanus, 22, who lives in South Oakland, a 15-minute walk from campus, was among those arrested Friday night on the Cathedral lawn. He said they were told to lie face down on the ground. “I feel pretty horrible. I think 99 percent of the people that were arrested had never been arrested before. The anarchists who did all the damage, none of them were there … It was absolutely atrocious.” Mr. Romanus, who said he was released around 12:30 p.m. yesterday, said police kept the detainees handcuffed all night. “My wrists are really sore. I didn’t get any sleep. They made us sit in chairs. They [the handcuffs] were on really right. One kid’s hand was bleeding by the end.”

A former student of mine said in an e-mail:

“The police went totally haywire last night.  this article only gives a partial account.  they were bashing people, pretty much indiscriminately.  Nothing to do with protests, or vandalism, or anarchists.  Just people going to get Primanti’s (a Pittsburgh institution famous for its sandwiches piled high with french fires and coleslaw) its , and then they get teargassed, or billy-clubbed, or arrested.”

Update: Here is a video clip from in front of the University of Pittsburgh.

Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Mon May 18th 2009 at 10:29am UTC

Tales of Two Cities

Monday, May 18th, 2009

The New York Times does Toronto (the 8th most popular story at the Times as I write this):

As one of the planet’s most diverse cities, Toronto is oddly clean and orderly. Sidewalks are spotless, trolleys run like clockwork, and the locals are polite almost to a fault. That’s not to say that Torontonians are dull. Far from it. With a population that is now half foreign-born — fueled by growing numbers of East Indians, Chinese and Sri Lankans — the lakeside city offers a kaleidoscope of world cultures. Sing karaoke in a Vietnamese bar, sip espresso in Little Italy and catch a new Bollywood release, all in one night. The art and design scenes are thriving, too, and not just on the bedazzled red carpets of the Toronto International Film Festival, held every September. Industrial zones have been reborn into gallery districts, and dark alleys now lead to designer studios, giving Canada’s financial capital an almost disheveled mien.

And Pittsburgh:

I always thought you were meant to be disquieted by other people’s cool, but that is not the formula at Brillobox. The place is a hipster pub, which is not an oxymoron in Pittsburgh, whose alternative paper last year named it both Best Overall Bar and Hipster Bar. The props of Gen Y irony are everywhere: Home Depot chandelier, chili pepper lights, the D.J.’s cool segue from Foghat to the ‘‘Willy Wonka’’ soundtrack, a lavatory that is an anarchist collage of decals and ink. (‘‘It looks like Rosemary’s Baby was whelped in there,’’ my friend said.) But the ambience lies deeper. ‘‘I walk in on a Saturday night,’’ the novelist said. ‘‘It’s shoulder to shoulder. They’re playing old-school funk — nothing cutting-edge. And everyone here knows my story. They know what happened to me that week.’’

David Miller
by David Miller
Sat Jan 17th 2009 at 9:43am UTC

WSJ on NFL Playoff Cities & Stadium Based Development

Saturday, January 17th, 2009

Earlier this week Richard posted on movie production incentives as a development tool. This weekend’s WSJ has an interesting editorial by Jerry Bowyer investigating NFL Conference Championship teams Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Baltimore’s use of stadium centric development in recent years. (The Arizona Cardinals, based in the Phoenix-metro, is the fourth team playing this weekend.)

From the Op-Ed, Sports Mania Is a Poor Substitute for Economic Success;

If there ever was a time to crow about the wonders of rebuilding a city around a professional sports team, this would be it. Three of the four teams remaining in the play-offs hail from cities — Baltimore, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh — that in recent years spent billions rebuilding their downtowns around pro sports facilities and other community “anchors.”

Except that there’s a problem. The teams might be competitive, but the cities definitely are not. All three continue to shrink in population, and have stagnant job markets and crumbling public schools.”

And later,

“When the Steelers were in the Super Bowl in 2006 I was the host of a radio show in Pittsburgh. I argued that the franchise was an exercise in leadership excellence in a city whose politicians were anything but. Numerous callers hammered me. They said there are a lot of “Steelers” bars across the country, and that proved the city still had some national respect. Indeed, there are hundreds of watering holes dispersed across America loaded with fanatical devotes of the Pittsburgh Steelers. “Where are the Seahawks bars?” the callers asked.

In Seattle, of course. That city has gained population while Pittsburgh lost it. Steelers bars are the visible cultural artifact of a kind of economic diaspora.”

I am a huge sports fan and appreciate many of the new stadiums across the country and know the record is mixed – look at the benefits of the privately financed Verizon Center in D.C’s China Town. Clearly the devil is in the financing details and the overall balance of the regional economy as to whether stadiums help or hurt economic success.

Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Fri Jan 16th 2009 at 9:44am UTC

How Long Does it Take Cities to Come Back

Friday, January 16th, 2009

This is a big question – for which there are no easy answers. Some cities are quite resilient: places like NY or London seem to be able to remake themselves seamlessly for new economic times. Others falter and never bounce back. But reading stories this weekend on two of my favorite cities -  Pittsburgh, where I lived for nearly two decades, and Detroit, where my wife Rana’s family lives and where we visit often – got me thinking.

The superb article on Detroit by Lawrence Ulrich in the Sunday Times captures the true soul and very real dilemma facing that city. It is a must-read for anyone who cares about cities and Detroit in particular.

The second article, also in the Times, takes a looks at Pittsburgh’s rebirth and, among other things, suggests there may be lessons there for Detroit and places like it.

It’s hard not to compare the two cities and regions, but they are really different places. Pittsburgh for one developed before Detroit. Its core industry was steel which emerged in the late 19th century; and it also had a more diverse industrial base – with leading firms like Westinghouse, Pittsburgh Plate Glass, Alcoa, Heinz, and others across a wide and diverse group of industries. Plus it was a financial powerhouse, with the Mellon interests not only being banking titans but functioning as an early sort of venture capital firm. Its major universities are located in the city. Its downtown core is intact (much of the worst decline was concentrated in mill town along the rivers outside the city’s limits). The city retains several very high-income neighborhoods and several excellent urban public schools. It has perhaps better “material” to work with and certainly a longer time frame to rebuild.

A colleague of mine once speculated that it takes at least two generations to overcome an economic crisis.  And that seems to hold, at least generally, when looking at, say, the crisis of steel in Pittsburgh or the crisis of manufacturing a generation or so earlier in Boston.

Detroit, while it has long faced urban decline, is facing its real economic test today. Yes, it has many assets, as Ulrich mentions. And, yes, it has to imagine and act on a future after auto. Auto has a role in it, particularly in design. But design itself is a bigger part of it, as Ulrich notes, Detroit was – and is – a center of design broadly. But it also must realize that even more so than Pittsburgh or Boston it cannot save itself.  It is home to several good universities, but its major intellectual assets are outside the city – the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and Michigan State University in Lansing. It also has to realize that it can benefit from greater connectivity to major metros and mega-region hubs nearby – Chicago and Toronto.

So, what do you think?

Richard Florida
by Richard Florida
Thu Aug 28th 2008 at 11:43am UTC

Viva La Rustbelt

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

Readers of the blog know I’m a huge Buffalo fan. Visiting the city on “homecoming” weekend, New York Magazine’s Adam Sternbergh tells us why that city and others like it – and no, not his adopted home of NYC – is the new frontier.

New York will always offer you the singular opportunity of testing yourself against the best, of sharpening yourself against the city’s fabled grindstone. Hopeful people will always scrape together their savings to come here, to split a one-bedroom apartment with five other people, whether that’s in Greenwich Village (then) or Bushwick (now). But New York, for all its mythology, is no longer a frontier. Buffalo is a frontier. And when you think of the actual frontier, you’ll recall that no one ever packed up and moved West to a gold-rush town because they heard it had really good local theater. They moved looking for opportunities. They moved for the chance to build a new life for themselves.

This, ironically, has always been the siren song of New York City: the chance to turn yourself into someone new, to live the life you’ve always imagined. But what a city like Buffalo offers is a very different promise of what could be. It offers the chance to live on the cheap and start a nonprofit organization, or rent an abandoned church for $1,000 a month, or finish your album without having to hold down two temp jobs at the same time, or simply have more space and a better view and enough money left over each month to buy yourself a painting once in awhile. A city like Buffalo reminds you that, beyond New York, there are still frontiers.

And Adam, if you’re out there reading: your piece is the No. 3 story on the Buffalo morning TV news (yes, they rank them everyday). Buffalo is our other, local TV market here in Toronto.

Over at Burghdiaspora, Jim Russell uses the very same story to take me to task:

Somehow the urban frontier effect has eluded Richard Florida. He’s busy chasing yesterday’s city stars. The rise of places such as Austin also had a lot to do with providing a frontier experience. In the Sun Belt, blank slate geographies abounded (see Houston for the best example of a frontier political geography). And then the scene of opportunity shifts as the hipster cities mature (i.e. get more expensive). This is the fickle fortune of geographic mobility.

Huh? The Rustbelt elude moi? I am a big believer in observed locational preferences: let’s look at mine. Save for three years in Washington, D.C. and a sabbatical at Harvard in the mid-1990s, I’ve lived since the early 1980s in: Buffalo, Columbus, Pittsburgh, and now Toronto (and yes, it qualifies too). I met my wife in Detroit. Rustbelt cities are fantastic places – filled with history, authenticity, real messy urbanism, abundant garage spaces, spectacular interplay between the built and natural environments and great universities. What has kept them down – caused their own sons and daughters to move out and kept talent away? Simple. In addition to economic trauma, it is a long legacy of close-minded and intolerant leadership – squelchers. I’ve seen it firsthand in so many of these places. That’s now starting to turn around in Buffalo, as Sternbergh’s story shows, and in Pittsburgh, and elsewhere. Go Tor-Buff Bills!

David Miller
by David Miller
Wed Aug 27th 2008 at 12:56pm UTC

Pittsburgh: Robots Are Cooler Than Cows

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

One of the keys to building a sustainable, creative economy is leveraging a city or region’s assets and engaging the citizens with those assets. A great piece in today’s WSJ highlights how Pittsburgh, PA and Carnegie Mellon University (where Richard taught/lived for years) has supported its citizens’ efforts to learn about and build robots – including edible robots! Here is the website for Robot 250 (the year-long robot festival).

From the article by Clare Ansberry:

Mickey McManus took five seedless cucumbers, carved them so they looked like fingers and anchored them to a hunk of Edam cheese. To this “hand,” he attached a small electronic device, programmed to respond to sound; when someone laughed or clapped, the fingers flexed. He brought his cucumber robot to a wine-and-cheese party as an appetizer, along with a robotic Rice Krispies Treats man that pivoted whenever the lights dimmed…

The yearlong program, called Robot 250, coincides with the city’s 250th birthday. Teachers fanned out to 13 neighborhoods, providing materials, instruction and troubleshooting. “We wanted to put technology into the hands of as many people as possible,” says Illah Nourbakhsh, an associate professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute, who came up with the idea…

People in Pittsburgh have been building robots for decades. Seventy years ago, an engineer at Westinghouse Electric created Elektro the Moto-Man, who could walk and smoke cigarettes and had a 77-word vocabulary. His sidekick, Sparko the Moto-Dog, wagged his tail, sat and barked on command.

Today, there are more than 30 robotic companies in Pittsburgh. They make drowsy-driver warning systems, and robots that help with surgery, unload crates and search for life on distant planets. Alcoa Inc. has a 6-foot-tall robot spokesperson, Al, who hosted a recent Robot Block Party at the Carnegie Science Center.

Part of the Robot 250 event, the block party was billed as the city’s largest and most diverse public gathering of robots. A solar-powered robot mingled with hazmat robots that search for explosives. Robots built by teenagers were on display. Red Rover, a four-wheeled robot that has become a local celebrity in robot circles, made an appearance. Red Rover and his creators are vying for the Google Lunar X Prize, a $30 million competition for the first privately funded team to send a robot to the moon and transmit video, images and data back to Earth.

Pittsburgh has had many struggles over the years, but is continually trying to use its historical strengths to claw its way back to the leading edge of the economy. Many cities and regions could take a cue from Pittsburgh’s efforts to engage its people and their creativity. What is your city doing? Is it working?