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Identity & Community
A city rebuilds itself with new industry, new energy and new people after a generation of decline. But what happens to those who endured the tough times? Are they lifted up, or pushed out? How can newcomers and established residents build a common vision of progress? Or is creative tension part of what pushes a city to a better future? Here are some of the reports from 90.5 WESA about some of the questions and challenges our city is encountering along the revival road.For more coverage of recovery and revival throughout Pennsylvania, visit our partner, Keystone Crossroads.

Rapper Explores Economic Divide Within Pittsburgh's Revitalization

Davelyn/Google Maps
As Pittsburgh continues to attract urban professionals, some say the city's lower-income residents are being left behind. Abandoned houses in Uptown (L), since torn down by the PHDC, & Cork Factory Lofts in the Strip District (R).

Huffington Post recently named Pittsburgh one of the top ten cities that techies should move to. Last year, Zagat named Pittsburgh its top food city. And Vogue just ran an article about the Ace Hotel in East Liberty.

But there’s growing concern that the rising tide isn’t lifting all boats.

Evictions and rising rents in East Liberty have raised the specter of gentrification, and even Mayor Bill Peduto has expressed his concern about what he calls the two Pittsburghs.

Local rapper and activist Khari Mosley, also known as K-Mos, addresses that issue in a new song, called “A Tale of Two Cities.”

“One (city) is bright shiny buildings downtown and brand new hotels and luxury housing,” said Mosley, whose day job involves advocating for labor and environmental issues with the BlueGreen Alliance. “The other part of the city is public school closings and poverty and violent crime and police-community issues. (It is) a certain kind of lack of hope.”

Mosley grew up on Pittsburgh’s North Side. He said he remembers enrollment at his elementary school dwindling in the early 1980s as families moved away to escape the economic bust brought on by the steel industry’s collapse.

“I can remember the old Pittsburgh as a very young person … I remember riding the trolley with my mom … I remember the Jenkins Arcade,” Mosley said. “And it is a little strange sometimes having conversations with people who are so gung-ho about Pittsburgh but you get a feeling like, ‘You really don’t know as much about Pittsburgh as you think you do, as people who have been here and watched the city transform.’”

Mosley said he doesn’t think Pittsburgh should be isolationist, but that new people moving to the city need to take time to understand its history. And he said political leaders, such as his wife, Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner, should remember to balance urban revitalization with economic justice.

“Look at a Robert Clemente, one of our true civic heroes. He didn’t grow up in the Hill District or Homewood or North Side, but he is as much ours as he is Puerto Rico’s,” Mosley said. “And that shows you the power of people coming into the city and adding something."