Bank to refurbish park that protesters occupied during winter
Mellon Green's bumpy ride isn't over yet.
Bank of New York Mellon plans to spend $485,000 to add gates, chains and an undulating landscaped surface to deter anyone from trying to resurrect “The People's Park,” the name Occupy Pittsburgh protesters gave the makeshift tent city they held there from mid-October until February.
“It wasn't that comfortable to start out with,” said Bram Reichbaum, 36, of East Allegheny, an Occupy member.
Spokeswoman Lane Cigna said the bank wants to “restore the integrity, beauty and security of BNY Mellon Green.”
The city Planning Commission reviewed the plans at a briefing on Tuesday. Members could vote on plans as soon as July 10.
No public subsidies will be involved, Cigna said.
If approved, the green's makeover would come with security features including a post-and-chain perimeter fence, steel gates at entry points and plaques stating that the park is open only from dawn to dusk, said Bill Schademan, vice president of BNY Mellon's general services and corporate real estate department.
“I think it's kind of unnecessary. Open spaces are kind of nice,” said Austin Reams, 21, of Beltzhoover, who strolled by the green yesterday afternoon. “I would appreciate it not being gated off.”
A chain-link fence has blocked entry into the park between Sixth Avenue, Ross Street and Grant Street since protesters moved out. BNY Mellon evicted them in December by arguing they were trespassing. A judge ordered in February that the group, a spin-off of the Occupy Wall Street movement against economic inequality, must leave the park because they were damaging it.
The goal is to complete the work by year's end, if the commission approves.
Sara Moore, a landscape architect who works for BNY Mellon, said workers would add soil to build 12- to 15-inch tall waves in the grassy areas of the park.
Moore said the park's dense tree canopy would be thinned over two years to allow more light to filter to the ground and plans call for adding flowers, hedges and a two-foot-wide granite band to delineate between public sidewalks and the private park.
John Valentine, a Planning Commission member, asked Moore if the gates were intended to keep out Occupy protesters.
“The gate is there to close the park on those hours when the park is closed,” Moore said.
Jeremy Boren is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.