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Photo show: the beautiful and the haunting

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .

 

praguesynagogie
A few years ago, photographer David Aschkenas invited me to view an exhibition of his work at the Jewish Community Center and I met him there to look at them.
 
The images mesmerized me. They were from Eastern Europe. They were stark; I remember them as black and white, or sepia. 
 
They homed in on pieces of a scene and magnified the mundane along with the glorious.
 
Not long afterward, he sent me some emails of photos he had taken in Prague, a city I had visited at the dawn of the post-Soviet era. I fell hard for that city of gorgeous 14th and 15th century buildings.
 
On that trip, I found the old Jewish cemetery and took slow, quiet steps along its paths. Its tablet tombstones were tightly packed together in disheveled states of leaning, fallen and stacked It was one of the most disquieting and moving sites I’ve ever visited.
 
His emailed photo of the same cemetery struck a chord of remembrance and I have studied his work ever since, including the series of shots showing the process of disassembling the Civic Arena.
 
His latest photo show "Synagogues of Prague and Budapest," is up now at the Berger Gallery at the Jewish Museum of the Jewish Community Center, 5738 Darlington Road, Squirrel Hill. The official opening reception is from 6-8p, April 23, and it’s free and open to the public. Museum hours are 5.30a to 10p Monday-Thursday, 5.30a to 6p Friday and 8a to 6p Saturday and Sunday.
 
It shows 23 photographs of the architecture and the artifacts that described the community over time, including pieces of cloth, threadbare chairs and old desks. He took these photos during trips to these cities between 2011-2013.
 
During the run of this show, his works will be displayed at the American Jewish Museum and Jubilee Synagogue in Prague.
 
David Aschkenas photo of the oldest synagogue in Europe, dating to 1270, in Prague, the Czech Republic

 

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5 days to back bike safety kick-starter

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .

 

BikePGH has five days to raise the last $20,000 on Indiegogo to broaden the reach of its Drive With Care campaign. 
 
The effort arose after some well publicized accidents between cars and cyclists to remind drivers that people on bicycles aren’t just people on bicycles but people they might know and even love. 
 
Rude bicyclists and those who do not obey traffic rules and etiquette have their own critics. It may be hard to love those guys who wear skin-tight gear and pedal past you on a trail as if they own it, and a bicyclist weaving around cars and riding in the wrong direction poses his own threat.
 
If the progress we expect and hope to see in Pittsburgh’s bicycle infrastructure is going to sustain itself, we will need more than this but it’s a step away from the antagonism that seems to keep perpetuating the problem.
 
The campaign has been underway on billboards and bus shelters showing real Pittsburghers riding their bikes and reminding others that their lives should be valued, considering they are Pittsburghers’ kids, parents and, of course, (at least one) Steeler, Antonio Brown.
 
BikePGH sponsored these public service announcements last year to positive feedback. The Indiegogo campaign “will allow the Drive With Care message to be broadcast on a much larger scale to make a broader impact,” BikePGH said. 
 
Becca Susman of BikePGH wrote in an email that this spring “marks two years since our colleague Dan Yablonsky nearly lost his life in a hit-and-run crash while he was riding his bike. His road to recovery has been long and has had a profound effect on those of us who know and care about him. There have also been several other serious collisions since then and people riding bikes contend with aggressive encounters with cars on a daily basis.”

 

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Best Neighborhoods nominations open

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .

fountainPittsburghers, here’s your chance to get some recognition for your neighborhood.
 
Northwood Realty Services is holding a first-ever process for people to nominate their neighborhoods on points such as best view, best yard sale, architectural features, best holiday decorations, etc. The winners will be featured in regional editions of InCommunity Magazines and receive special recognition and bragging rights.
 
Residents of Allegheny, Butler, Westmoreland and Washington Counties can nominate their neighborhoods across a range of categories, which you can get more information about here.
 
The nomination deadline is April 30.
 
Here is the nomination form.
 
Winners will be notified and announced on June 15.
 
Here at Walkabout, we don’t value neighborhoods based on property values, although this contest’s “best all-around neighborhood” qualifications are based on these, the most prestigious of three being the legendary division, which has property values above $350,000.
 
I will refrain from nominating my neighborhood, but the Mexican War Streets would be a contender in the “best spirit” category, i.e., “most stoop parties,” i.e., “most empty wine bottles.”
 
Best view? Must we see the same Mount Washington hands? How about Fineview? Best yard sales? Anyone?
 
I have some categories that Northwood isn’t considering, with Walkabout winners already decided:
 
Best dried fish, Andean knitted goods and biscotti? The Strip.
Best metal awnings? Tie: Lawrenceville and Bloomfield.
Best bird watching? Duh. Hays.
Best pot holes? Squirrel Hill.
Best fountain? Downtown.
Most rentals? Shadyside.
Best kept secret? Brookline.
Most slender? Esplen.
Most quiet? Ridgemont.
Most potential: Homewood.
 
Go!

 

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Few can walk 5 minutes for fresh food

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .

 

market produce
The small neighborhood market has been much on my mind of late, specifically the one I am supporting but more generally because of how important an asset it is in a neighborhood, and how uncommon it is.
 
Giant Eagle, Foodland, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, IGA and all the larger retailers are necessary, and the plethora of options in the Strip make that a regular must-do. But if everyone had the option of a short walk to get some essential groceries, then every neighborhood would have a little store with enough variety to be more than the emergency milk and bread stop. 
 
Sarah Goodyear writes in The Atlantic Cities about a recent analysis of cities that looked at walking distance to fresh food sources. In her article, “In the U.S., a Quick Walk to the Store is a Rare Thing Indeed,” she sets up a scenario familiar to many of us: We are into a recipe when we realize we need a crucial ingredient.
 
The last time that happened to me, I thought I had an egg or two left in the carton. Lucky for me, my neighbor raises hens so I popped next door and got an egg.
 
In the article, Ms. Goodyear poses the question: How long would it take you to walk to get a fresh ingredient? An analysis by Walk Score of 50 of the largest American cities shows a yawning gap between the nine cities that have five-minute access for more than 40 percent of its population and those that don't even serve 30 percent.
 
Pittsburgh's snapshot is reproduced below. The green blobs represent where people have a fresh food source within a five-minute walk:
5min
 
The five-minute standard set by Walk Score is based on a goal that Washington, D.C. has set in its 20-year master plan.
 
I am very lucky to have neighbors who can supply any number of emergency items, but the whole neighborhood is lucky that the Allegheny City Market is about a five minute walk. In the former Doug’s Market, owner Rob Collins has upgraded the inventory enough that his market is my first-option grocery, providing 75 percent of the items on my list.
 
There are too few markets like this in Pittsburgh and throughout the cities studied.
 
The article states:
 
“For 72 percent of New Yorkers, the answer is less than five minutes. But in Indianapolis – or Oklahoma City or Wichita – only 5 percent of residents have a store selling fresh produce within that distance.
 
“Using data from its extensive database, Walk Score ranked the 50 largest U.S. cities to see how they did on access to decent food, using stores that sell fresh produce as a benchmark.
 
“The numbers paint a picture of a dramatically divided nation.”
 
The article reports that Washington, D.C.'s goal is to have 75 percent of its population living within a quarter mile of a healthy food source within 20 years. 
 
Washington is one of the nine cities with top access now but barely cracks 40 percent. New York is #1, of course, with 72 percent of people who have five-minute pedestrian access to fresh food. San Francisco and Philadelphia are the only others in which more than 50 percent of people can walk to buy that crucial egg, or lime or endive, in five minutes.
 
A city's planning goal for greater access comes down to land use and requirements for development, topics that present choppy waters for politicians. It would be interesting to see how Pittsburgh might decide to address this issue, given the sweeping amount of land vacancy in its most food-challenged neighborhoods.
 
Top photo taken at the Allegheny City Market
 
 

 

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People can be trained, at a price

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .

 

In a recent article in Atlantic Cities, “3 Enormous Benefits to Charging the Right Price for Parking, Eric Jaffe makes a case for rethinking how cities can get the most out of their transit investments.
 
 carsHe writes:
 
“Most U.S. cities do everything they can to abide the theory. They undervalue the price of street spaces. They keep parking so cheap it encourages driving (and thus undermines their own transit investments, leading to more driving). And they require a minimum number of parking spaces for new developments whether residents need them or not.
 
“Three recent studies highlight big benefits to setting the right price for city parking: less traffic, more transit use, and greater tax revenue.”
 
The article includes links to the studies.
 
It makes the point that cheap parking is a motivation for people to drive into a city and that higher fees to park provide the incentive for them to use transit. 

 

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