large enough to matter, small enough to impact

Those are the words of the mayor of Braddock, PA. Here's Mayor John Fetterman with his deputy mayor, Jeb Feldman

yep. that's the mayor. and his ride. This town outside of Pittsburgh has a wild story - it was once a booming steel town of over 20,000, now the population is around 2,000. It's a city of decay and crime, so much so that the gang members call it Bradocc (changing the last "k" to a "c" because of the amount of crip gang members). The mayor, a Harvard grad with a degree in public policy, tattoos the date of every murder on his forearm. BUT this town is fascinating! This mayor has dedicated his life to turning this "city" around. Look at the potential:

It seems like the set of one of those doomsday movies - like where you wake up and you're the only one left, and you're wandering down the main street with tigers ... it's full of AMAZING old (run down) architecture. It's the home of the first Carnegie Library, still in use thank goodness.  The library used to have an entry into the mines in the basement, complete with a bath so the men could enter into the the library all clean. pretty amazing, here's the library:

Mayor Fetterman does seem to be doing well, calling in big name artists to do installations, trying to get creative types to move there for the low prices and big studio space. interested?? Here's a recent street work by SWOON, a nyc based artist:

He has a master plan to turn the old furnaces into a steel heritage site modeled on the Sloss Furnaces of Alabama.  and his plans for urban gardening just make me giddy!

All in all I can't tell if I'm inspired or depressed. Being smack between Bethlehem and Reading this all hits so close to home.  and with the all the economic drama going on right now (NPR is basically declaring the end of the world!) I fear for re-emerging towns like these, especially when a proposed highway wants to wipe them out. arggg.   BUT, I think I'm inspired. and challenged. and humbled.  (let's go! grassroots, handmade, indie, locally grown, etc, etc.)

Look at this place. 2000 people. that's like the number of people in Ikea right now, at 10am on a Thursday. It's got to be do-able, right?

1 comment:

Rosie's Whimsy said...

OMGosh, I so enjoyed reading about this town! What a wonderful job you did writing this story. I truly hope the town manages it's rebirth.

Thanks so much for sharing.