Nov. 25, Erie, PA. Inspired by news that Bike Erie, CivitasErie, Erie County United, Keystone Progress, NAACP Erie and the co-author of the city’s comprehensive plan, “Erie Refocused” (Charles Buki) all support ErieCPR’s call for a pause in the planned demolition of the McBride Viaduct (while organizing a transparent public hearing about the “costs and benefits” of removing the bridge versus stabilizing the structure for continued adaptive reuse as a non-vehicular Eastside artery), the community group, ErieCPR:Connect+Respect is holding a Marshmallows & Music celebration with Saint Stephen on the bridge 11am-noon, Sat., Dec. 2 - in advance of the Kids Safety March, Monday, Dec. 4 at 7:45am during rush hour to, in the words of Dr. King, “make justice a reality for all of God’s children.” The new Via-duck Mascot (by Erie’s object-maker-for-hire Dave Stull) will be attending both events.
The McBride Viaduct is an 80-year old bridge connecting neighborhoods long divided by a railroad, and, since 2005, by a multi-lane highway. If demolition occurs, Eastside residents who rely on the Viaduct, including many Black, Hispanics and New Americans, will be expected to use a 2000-foot long path along a highway and sidewalk along a busy industrial corridor. To permit the incoming administration to “evaluate the many outcomes that could result – either by demolition or rehabilitation,” Buki recommends “pausing” the demolition planning and to hold the kind of discussion, “that should have occurred years ago.”
Mr. Buki explained that “a pause in the planned demolition of the Viaduct … would be completely consistent with Erie Refocused.” He commented that his “hesitancy to comment on any one project during the planning process” was an awareness that the community didn’t have, “a transparent enough process for making decisions.” But, Buki says now “that Erie Refocused is the city’s guiding plan . . there is a process for prioritizing.” He also noted that there is a “long overdue and very justified - expectation that the Erie community has a say.” While he notes that such engagement does not imply the community “a right to the outcome it wants” he offers that everyone deserves to be “consulted” and “treated fairly.”
Two guiding principles of Erie Refocused are prioritizing pedestrians over vehicles and investing in existing assets. These directives support consideration of saving the Viaduct and of proposals to create an Erie version of NYC’s High Line and reflect the views of the urban planning experts who visited Erie: John Norquist, (April 2015) the author of The Wealth of Cities, the former Mayor of Milwaukee and former Director of the Congress for the New Urbanism; Dr. Mindy Thompson Fullilove, (August 2015) author of Urban Alchemy, planning consultant and respected “town shrink.” Toni Griffin, (April 2016) architect and editor of Just City; and in April of this year, Terry Schwarz, Director, Cleveland Urban Design.
Because Mayor Sinnott is poised to sign a contract to demolish the McBride Viaduct, Adam Trott announced on Nov. 9th that an attorney has volunteered to file an injunction on behalf of ErieCPR and others to “pause” demolition planning, hold a public hearing and to stop outgoing Mayor Sinnott from signing a contract that would force Mayor-elect Schember’s administration to tear down the bridge. Trott notes that while Viaduct demolition costs were first announced at $1.2 million, they now exceed $3 million – more than the estimated cost of stabilizing the Viaduct as a pedestrian and bike route. Trott reports that if demolition proceeds, a team will be hired from outside the region. In contrast, he explained that an investment in the Viaduct will allow the establishment of a training program and can create local jobs through a Community Benefits Agreement. Trott also noted that the planned pedestrian route is longer, much narrower and is immediately adjacent to the 14,000 speeding vehicles– a dangerous way for children to walk or bike to school each day.
In response to the recent USA Today and Wall Street Journal stories identifying Erie as the “worst place” in the nation for Black Americans, a long-time Erie social worker commented, “if we tear down the Viaduct, we will prove they are right.” ErieCPR spokesperson Michael Keys, commented that the people most dependent on the Viaduct are “living in poverty” and cannot “fight City Hall” on their own. Another ErieCPR member, Cynthia Muhammad (publisher of the Erie Metropolitan Black Yellow Pages) says that demolition will create a “containment area . . . where children will be injured.” Rev. Charles Mock of Erie’s African-American Concerned Clergy and Erie’s NAACP President, Gary Horton believe saving the Viaduct is crucial to maintaining safety, creating jobs and fostering hope on Erie’s Eastside. Minority leaders and officers of ErieCPR:connect+respect (the community group lobbying to save the bridge that is legally affiliated with the 501c3 Winds of Change)have asked the Mayor-elect - who campaigned on a platform promising to “transform Erie” with “bold ideas, swiftness and collaboration” - to quickly call for public hearing before a demolition contract is signed. # # #