Doing the electric slide

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .

by Diana Nelson Jones/Jan 29

Duquesne Light's not talking, but some Deutschtown residents say they are bracing for the utility's decision to put a controversial cooling station into a garage behind two properties it is negotiating to buy on Cedar Avenue - 726 and 728.

DL last year proposed to build a 9-by-28-foot cooling station smack-dab on the Foreland Street entrance to Allegheny Commons Park, and residents from a dozen North Side neighborhoods let ‘er rip at a community meeting last fall. The staff responsible for authentically restoring the Victorian park also made it known that a big metal box would just not do.

Councilman Darlene Harris and other city representatives said they would not give their blessing to a humming rectangle in the historic park, and so DL looked for a solution across the street.

Their spokesmen have claimed the station must be within about 100 feet of where lines that stretch from Lawrenceville to Brunot's Island come together. The junction apparatus is currently buried about where DL wanted to put the box. In past discussions, DL spokesmen nixed the idea of reburying the station after upgrading it. Residents insist that if an extention of the T can be built underwater then a cooling station can be updated, ungraded and reburied safely under the park.

That solution might cost DL more than they want to spend. Walkabout tried to pin down some details and got only this: "We have no comment at this time," from Joseph Vallarian, a DL spokesman.

But let's go with the too-expensive scenario for the sake of Joe Ferrara, who has been upgrading two properties at Cedar and Foreland - across from the potentially humming garage - and has complied with all the rules of an historic district.

"I didn't want to spend $30,000 on windows, either, but I had to," he said. "We had to spend tens of thousands of dollars to comply with codes and regulations," he said. "Duquesne Light has to respect the integrity of the neighborhood, too."

Jeff Cieply lives across from the garage and said he is worried about potential noise and potential harm to his home's value.

When people say "no comment," you really have to resist filling in the blanks. We understand that Joseph is under a zip-your-lip directive, but in that void, people talk about things that remain to be known as if they already know them, which opens the door to hype and hysteria.

The box might not hum as loudly as one resident said he heard it would - the equivalent of an air conditioner for a five-story building. Are we talking a brawny five-story building or a sliver of one? Maybe the box isn't going to be as big as earlier proposed... maybe the garage would be so well-insulated that even a cat wouldn't hear it hum.

This might be a case of "be careful what you don't want or you may surely get something worse." This could be a dandy solution that residents' opposition might totally screw up, throwing the park back into play, but we don't know....

....yet. Walkabout is trying to find out what it is DL doesn't want you to know yet. Stay posted.

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