Pittsburgh council, activists to talk about 'mass displacement' of Black residents

Tom Davidson, The Tribune-Review, Greensburg
·2 min read

May 3—A former Penn Plaza resident who was displaced when the East Liberty apartment building was razed in 2017 is part of a group seeking acknowledgement from Pittsburgh leaders that Black people are leaving the city in large numbers.

"This is an injustice," said Randall Taylor, who now lives in Homewood but hopes to return to a new place in East Liberty soon.

Taylor is a former city council candidate and school board member who also was active with the Penn Plaza Support and Action Coalition that fought the demolition of the complex four years ago.

In April, Taylor and 31 others petitioned city council for a meeting about what it described as the "forced mass displacement" the city's Black residents. The petition cited census data that show 7,000 Blacks left the city between 2014 and 2018.

Is there a crisis of 'forced mass displacement' of Black Pittsburghers?

"Those are human beings trying to lead lives," Taylor said.

The meeting with council is set for 1:30 p.m. Wednesday and will be led by Councilman Ricky Burgess.

Last month, Burgess called the premise of the meeting "false."

People left the city because of blight and crime, he said, and not because neighborhoods like East Liberty were being gentrified.

Taylor and others who asked for the meeting disagreed.

On Monday, Burgess expanded on his comments.

"Overall, the displacement of Black people in Pittsburgh is the result of decades of institutional racism, but there are multiple factors that led to this problem," Burgess said.

Although gentrification played a role, the reason Blacks have moved from neighborhoods like Homewood, Larimer and the Hill District is because of blight, crime and lack of affordable housing, he said.

Taylor said he and others are calling on the city to do something about these issues.

"The city should prioritize bringing people back to Pittsburgh," Taylor said. "Now it's time to start talking about how we can fix these problems."

He suggested the city use some of the $355 million in federal pandemic stimulus money to invest in its Black neighborhoods.

Burgess agreed, noting the city has formed a task force to oversee equitable use of the money. He also said the city has several programs in place to specifically help Black residents and they're now listed in one place on the city's website.

The Black Pittsburgh Matters page has videos and information about 11 items that Burgess and Councilman R. Daniel Lavelle have led in recent years to address the long-standing racial inequities in the city, Burgess said.

Tom Davidson is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tom at 724-226-4715, tdavidson@triblive.com or via Twitter .