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Residents Of Historically Redlined Neighborhoods May Experience More COVID-19 Risk Factors

Jake Savitz
90.5 WESA
Starting in at least the 1930s, some neighborhoods throughout the U.S. and in Pittsburgh were intentionally cut off from lending and investment through redlining.


On today's program: The long-lasting impacts of redlining are still felt in some Pittsburgh neighborhoods; the Pittsburgh Art Commission plans to debate the removal of the Christopher Columbus statue in Schenley Park; and Puerto Ricans living in Pennsylvania after being displaced by Hurricane Maria look forward to voting in the U.S. presidential election. 

The impacts of redlining are still felt in Pittsburgh neighborhoods, says a new study
(00:00 — 7:08)

Low-income and minority communities were cut off from lending and investment for decades through redlining. According to the firstnational-level study of the health consequences of redlining in more than 140 urban areas, including Pittsburgh, residents of those neighborhoods are still experiencing the negative health impacts of those policies.

“This is very literally structural racism where it was built into the structure of American cities, into the housing structure and the neighborhood structure of American cities, and that’s something that persists over a very long time,” saysBruce Mitchell, a senior researcher with theNational Community Reinvestment Coalition, which conducted the study along with the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee and the University of Richmond.  

People living in redlined neighborhoods today experience shorter life expectancies and poorer health than neighboring communities that weren’t redlined. 

Those in these historically discriminated neighborhoods are also at a greater risk for pre-existing conditions like asthma, diabetes, and hypertension, which can heighten “risk of morbidity in COVID-19 patients.”

Pittsburgh Art Commission to debate removal of Schenley Park Columbus statue
(7:10 — 11:48)

Later today, Pittsburgh’s Art Commission will debate the removal of the Christopher Columbus statue in Schenley Park. More than a dozen U.S. cities have removed monuments to Columbus.Critics say Columbus enslaved and brutalized indigenous people. Supporters say it honors Italian-American heritage.


Nearly 30 people spoke at a public hearing last Thursday, and around 4,400 people submitted commentsthroughout the process, saysBill O’Driscoll, who reports on arts and culture for 90.5 WESA.

The Art Commission’s vote may not be the final decision. The Commission says it has the final say, but Mayor Bill Peduto says the Commission is an advisory body, and their vote will constitute a recommendation he can accept or reject.

“It’ll be interesting to see what happens,” says O’Driscoll. “If—as most people expect—the Art Commission votes to remove the statue, then it’s kind of the mayor’s move at that point, I guess, whether he wants to stick with this new interpretation of the ordinance.” 

Puerto Rican community in Pennsylvania displaced by Hurricane Maria eager to vote in November election
(11:50 — 17:48)

It’s been three years since Hurricane María’s landfall in Puerto Rico, which caused massive havoc on the island and killed nearly 3,000 people.

Following the storm, hundreds of thousands of people started their lives over in the mainland U.S. More settled in Pennsylvania than in any state outside of Florida.

For theAmerica Amplified project,Alanna Elder spoke withPennsylvanians displaced by Maria who will now vote in the U.S. presidential election.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.


Kevin Gavin is the host of WESA's news interview program "The Confluence." He is a native Pittsburgher and served as news director for 90.5 WDUQ for 34 years. Since the sale of the radio station by Duquesne University to Pittsburgh EPM, Inc. (now Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corp.), he served as Executive Producer of Special News Projects prior to being named as host of "The Confluence" five years ago. kgavin@wesa.fm
Marylee is the editor/producer of The Confluence, the daily public affairs show on WESA. She got her start in journalism at The Daily Reveille and KLSU while attending Louisiana State University. She took her passion for audio journalism to UC Berkeley's graduate program and worked in public radio at WPR in Madison, WI, and WOSU in Columbus, Ohio.
Julia Zenkevich is a general assignment reporter for 90.5 WESA. She first joined the station as a production assistant on The Confluence, and more recently served as a fill-in producer for The Confluence and Morning Edition. She’s a life-long Pittsburgher, and attended the University of Pittsburgh. She can be reached at jzenkevich@wesa.fm.
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