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Included with the emailed version of the 3/08 Allegheny West Gazette

The library saga continues

by David Tessitor

Over a year ago AWCC unanimously passed a resolution (with one abstention) opposing movement of the Allegheny Library from its present Allegheny Center location. At the City Council public hearing on December 18, 2007, AWCC provided testimony against the move. At the January 2008 AWCC general member meeting, a motion was unanimously approved for AWCC to send a letter to the RAD Board (it provides most of the library's funding) requesting that the RAD Board require the Carnegie Library to expeditiously reopen the library in the existing building, regardless of whether the library should eventually be moved, since the lightning damage was completely repaired in May 2007 and it is now able to be used again.

When the February AWCC meeting ran long, an agenda item on the library was not considered. ...

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This website, by and for neighborhood residents and patrons of the Allegheny Regional Branch Library, is intended to provide more in depth information about the library, its history, and the controversy over plans to move it to a new location versus continuing to use the historic building as a library.

The intention is to provide an accurate and objective representation of each side of the issue along with an analysis of the larger implications and the reasonably expectable impacts of each.


Property not going to Library yet

The property on Federal Street has not been transfered to the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.   Before it can be transferred, it must first meet state and Federal historic preservation requirements.   This opens a whole new ballgame, putting everything hold.

By deciding to move the library, the Library and the City Council have made it impossible to comply with the state and Federal laws and regulations.   The regulations specifically require collaboration and an alternatives analysis before a decision is made, disallowing it after a decision is made as that would prejudice the analysis and considerations.   The only way that the Carnegie can proceed is to rescind the decision to move, reopen the library in the now repaired original building, and then if it wishes, initiate an alternatives analysis with community involvement before a board decision could be made of whether or not to move the library.


Should the library stay or move?

Contrary to the impression which the library board and some others have sought to create, the Allegheny Regional Library move to upper Federal street is not a done deal.   Even though City Council gave its final approval of the move on December 27, 2007 through its authorization of the transfer of a 15,000 sq.ft. parcel of land from the URA to the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh for $1, whether the library will actually move has not been settled yet.

Councilwoman Tonya Payne initiated the move of the library to upper Federal Street in order to boost the under performing Federal North real estate speculation project in her district.   While she did win the Council vote, it may well turn out to be a Pyrrhic Victory in that Council's approval, in violation of state and federal historic preservation laws which require consultation with the historic preservation agencies and an alternatives analysis before a decision is made, foreclosed the possibility of using state and federal funding to construct the new building.   The library was counting on using state and federal funding and the controversy over the adverse impacts upon a historic resource will tar any foundations which would provide private funding.

Council's library vote also had a positive note for those who favor continuing to use the historic building as a library.   Councilwoman Darlene Harris, in whose district the library sits, had said at the public hearing on December 18th that she would vote to approve the land transfer even though she also wants the Allegheny Regional Library to stay in its building.   Just minutes before Council's December 27th meeting, after being shown photos of the Homewood Library restoration, she said she would not vote to approve the transfer, that she would be voting against it.   This was of key importance because without her official opposition to the move, it would be much more difficult for the citizenry to support the continued use of the historic building as a library.

As important, Councilwoman Harris is committed to the repening of Ohio Street and Federal Street down to it as the top priority agenda item for the North Side.   With East Liberty years ahead in reclaiming their community from the traffic circle noose placed around its neck in the 1960's, a similar reopening of the Allegheny Center traffic circle is long over due.

Shortly after Council's vote, State Senator Jim Ferlo, who want to have a new library built on upper Federal Street, said that he would support reopening the existing library "on an interim basis ... if it is safe and can be done."   Pressure will now be shifted to the Allegheny County RAD board to use its power of the purse to force the library management to provide North Side residents with the service which is now being withheld since the lightning damage was fully repaired in May 2007.

Look for more to be happening to assure the reuse of the historic Allegheny Library building by the library as a library.