A city vision that's on the level

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .


Infrastructure presents a great challenge and great opportunity to cities looking to the future, from the redesign of storm water collection to the remaking of streets.
Atlantic Cities today features a look at the opportunity Syracuse, N.Y. has to regain a stolen piece of its urbanity by tearing rerouting I-81, a national highway that cuts through the core of the city.
In “The Future of Urban Freeways Is Playing Out Right Now in Syracuse,” Amy Crawford writes about one leader’s interest in correcting the suburban mindset of city planners in the mid-20th century. Van Robinson, a member of the Syracuse Common Council, proposes to reroute I-81 around Syracuse and build on its current footprint a landscaped boulevard. 
“But suburban business-owners and many of the 45,000 drivers who use the highway to commute fear that any change could hurt the local economy,” the article reads. “It’s a debate that goes beyond the immediate question of how Syracuse workers will get to work — to what kind of city Syracuse will be in the 21st century.
It continues: 
“Similar discussions are happening across the United States, says John Norquist, president of the Chicago-based Congress for the New Urbanism, which publishes an occasional list of interstates ripe for demolition. Many urban freeways — a staple of mid-20th century car-centric development — are beginning to fall apart, and today cities from New Haven to Seattle (not to mention others around the world) are taking the dramatic step of tearing them down.”
Now that society has become more city-friendly, this idea resonates on several fronts in Pittsburgh.
A couple of years ago, Carnegie Mellon University architecture and design students came up with a brainstorm to drop Route 65 to street level as it passes through Manchester and Chateau on the North Side. Their brainstorm went much further, with designs to make Chateau — which is almost wholly industrial — into a more liveable place.
By dropping Route 65, the roadway would be part of the neighborhood and tie Manchester and back Chateau together. A landscaped boulevard with consideration for pedestrians could be a game-changer for both neighborhoods.
The 579/Veterans Bridge atrocity is too new to be “ripe for demolition” but in my bag of fantasies, that roadway disappears and becomes a boulevard that reintroduces Downtown to the Hill at pedestrian scale.
Mr. Robinson's vision sets a good example and it begins with this quote from the article: "Who in the world would put an interstate through the middle of a city?”
But that's not the last word. I-81's current path through Syracuse benefits outlying communities just as Route 65 serves interests in Bellevue and further upriver. If you pulled traffic down to the level where people walk and slowed it, would it be as likely to shoot through to these communities?
Every potential solution has a consequence, but it can be argued that strength should not be nurtured from the outside in but from the inside out. A suburb is only as strong as the metro hub that gave it birth.


Join the conversation:

To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner. Thank you.

On President's Day, life, liberty and pursuit of happiness in tweets

Written by Ethan Magoc on .

She never gets bored when President’s Day rolls around. And many Pittsburghers have learned to look for her tweets from @EleanorsTrouser Twitter account on the third Monday of February.  

Being a federal government employee, she’s one of the lucky people in Pittsburgh to have this Monday off. She is staying busy tweeting little-known facts about U.S. presidents. She wanted to remain anonymous, so we've promised to respect her wish, but here’s what you need to know about the person behind Eleanor's Trousers.

The Eleanor’s Trousers Twitter account evolved from the blog with the same name.

She’s always been a huge Eleanor Roosevelt fan, and when looking for a catchy tagline for her blog eight years ago, a witty quote by the former First Lady stood out:

“No, I have never wanted to be a man. I have often wanted to be more effective as a woman, but I have never felt that trousers would do the trick!”

She lives in Lawrenceville and works in a federal agency’s human resources office. She moved to Pittsburgh more than a decade ago after growing up in Atlanta, where her mother teaches U.S. history.

When she decided to start tweeting random facts about U.S. presidents on this day in 2012, they were generally easy to come by.

“I actually have a decent collection of history books at home. Being a daughter of a history teacher, you tend to end up with biographies and other histories,” she said.

The rest of the facts she finds on Google and keeps on her phone. The jokes, though, are spontaneously paired with facts in her tweets.


In 2012, it was more spontaneous, as she went about furiously finding facts on the fly. Since then, she’s begun stockpiling here and there.

“I do enjoy the history,” she said. “I don’t so much tweet to be political about one president or the other. I think it’s interesting to see different times and strange quirks.”

Americans often see past presidents’ portraits and think only of the political events of their era, she said.

“But they all had interesting lives and were all humans,” she said. “Some of them better humans than others.”

 As long as Twitter and presidential trivia are around, she said, she'll keep this up. Her personal favorite? This one, about Andrew Jackson's profane parrot.


Join the conversation:

To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner. Thank you.

Readers share stories about their worst Valentine’s Day gifts

Written by Nicole Martin on .

Valentine’s Day can be stressful, filled with big expectations and sometimes unexpected, therefore, bigger disappointments.


We asked our readers about the worst gifts they have ever received on Feb. 14.


Here are their stories:


“My ex-boyfriend got me two things for our first (and only) Valentine's Day together. In one gift bag he put a piece of lingerie and a box of sockets. Yes, sockets. Like the kind you would use for working on a car or something. He said that he bought them because I didn't have any.” – Patti, 32


“Don’t get your girlfriend a kitchen appliance, apparently.” – Mike, 35


“My girlfriend once got me a gift card to her favorite store so that I could pick her something out. Now I’m sure you’re thinking something-sexy right? Her favorite store is Pier 1.” – Andrew, 23


“I thought I was being sweet and bought my girlfriend a pair of diamond earrings that she really wanted. Unfortunately I didn’t think about the fact that they came in a small, blue velvet box that I would be giving to her on the most romantic day of the year. The waiter just shook his head at me.” – Alex, 28


“I made a comment to my husband that my office chair at work got stuck when I tried to move and that I requested a new one from the company, but got no response. So he bought me an office chair for Valentine’s Day.” – Katelyn, 25


“My college girlfriend got me a scented candle and boxers that said, ‘taken’ on them. My roommates wouldn’t let me live it down for months.” –Mike, 24


“My fiancé once gave me a card that wasn’t signed, and still in the drug store plastic bag. ” – Shannon, 31


“My boyfriend and I are huge Pirates fans. He once got me a ticket to a Pirates game. Not tickets, just one. He had to work that day and thought I would be all right just going alone.” –Amanda, 24

What’s the worst Valentine’s Day gift you’ve ever received?


Join the conversation:

To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner. Thank you.

Down and out and unaffiliated

Written by Peter Smith on .

Overheard snippets of conversation between a young couple on the train yesterday morning (with an explanation of why it's relevant to follow):

"You'd better shape up or ship out. If you don't shape up in a couple days, I'm outta here."

(Jealous words follow about the chat rooms each of them have been visiting, including the ones she visited while he was serving time in jail.)

"..I'm tired of waking up and seeing that look on your face."

"So don't wake me up."

"You can't get a job if you sleep all day. I'm gonna get a job, take some responsibility."


Lost souls, to be sure, and in more than one way. It's hard to know which comes first -- broken relationships, verbal abuse, bleak job prospects, made all the bleaker by the stigma of a criminal record, and a desperation too raw to conceal among strangers. So what does this have to do with popular belief?

Only a fool would try to break into an argument like that and start an interview -- though I was tempted, because I wanted to ask if either of them has a connection to any religious congregation. That may sound beside the point. It isn't. 

It's commonly believed that the growth in people with no religious affiliation is taking place among the elites -- people with too much education or money or both to need religion. But actually, it's growing more among the have-nots.

Join the conversation:

To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner. Thank you.

Snow and sleet ruining your shoes? Here's what you can do to save them

Written by Nicole Martin on .

Road salt.

There might not be enough of it to cover the roads, but there sure is enough to ruin your shoes. Keeping warm is a must, of course, but looking good is a plus.

So here are a few tips to keep your winter attire looking top-notch.

How-to-fix-salt-stains-on-leather-3 Free People Blog

Removing salt stains from leather

The dreaded salt ring around the shoe is like a plague to Pittsburghers. Instead of buying over-priced shoe cleaner, simply make a half water, half vinegar mix, add a squirt of lemon juice, and a splash of either baby oil or conditioner in a spray bottle to restore moisture. Take a wash cloth and rub off the stain in a circular motion. I keep a bottle of this magic cleaner and a cloth in my work bag for on the go. When you get home, rub a lemon on the shoe and wipe it down for protection.

Misshaped or dirty suede

Suede is great, but it can be a bit more stubborn and takes more effort to remove road-salt stains. You will need a cloth, soft tooth brush, dish detergent and cold water. Use a dab of dish detergent and wet the cloth thoroughly. Dab the stained area with the cloth and while wet, use a toothbrush to scrub the area in a circular motion. After you finish, stuff the shoe with newspaper to keep the shape and let it dry naturally.

Cleaning Fleece Jackets

Everyone who has tried to wash a fleece jacket will notice that with each wash the fleece loses its softness and begins to form little clumps of fur on the jacket. You can prevent this from happening by turning the jacket inside out and washing it solo. After the wash finishes, run it through once more on the rinse cycle and then let it dry naturally on a hanger while still inside out.

Removing stains from wool

During the cold winter months, at least once a week I can ensure one coffee or make-up stain on my jacket or scarf. Try to treat the stain immediately. With a clean cloth, blot the stain — never rub it — until you get most of the stain removed. When you get home, spray with stain remover and wash in cold water. Do not wash in warm or hot water because the heat can set the stain.

Caring for Cashmere

Cashmere is gorgeous and can be a great investment for any wardrobe. Always hand-wash cashmere in cold water. You can use Woolite, though I prefer baby shampoo because it’s gentle and makes the material extra smooth. Always keep cashmere in a lump when it is wet, because picking it up and hanging it will stretch it out. Lay flat to dry.

Join the conversation:

To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner. Thank you.