Black Neighborhoods Matter

 Black Neighborhoods Matter Connecting Community Health, Vacant Land, and Racial Justice  We are experiencing a watershed moment in our country’s history. In the wake of a global pandemic, expanding financial insecurities, and continued police brutality and homicides, Black, Brown, and allied communities are rallying to demand constructive change within government and our institutions. Across the country, communities are crying #DefundPolice -- a critique of the abnormal sums of money cities and states invest in policing and surveillance, while other systems,…

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Grounded Statement on Racial Violence

Grounded works to promote equitable access to quality greenspace within marginalized communities. We acknowledge that our work is not separate from the larger concerns of racial violence, stigmatization, and oppression. The context for our work, and the communities we work alongside, emerges from a long history of racial segregation, targeted divestment, redlining, and disenfranchisement of land from Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color. We envision a region of thriving communities working together to sustain equitable change. The baseline for…

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Bill 299_Press Release

Pittsburgh City Council CityFarms Project Resolution 2020-0299 Recommitted by City Council   Pittsburgh, PA:  April 28, 2020, Pittsburgh City Council recommitted Resolution 2020-0299. This bill would have authorized the Mayor and the Director of the Department of Public Works to enter into a Project Cooperation Agreement or Professional Services Agreements with Grounded Strategies for the purposes of implementing a CityFarms pilot project on city-owned vacant land. The resolution is expected to be updated to include an RFP process. Grounded Strategies,…

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The Role of Greenspace in Pittsburgh’s Transportation Equity Conversation

Currently, the City of Pittsburgh's Department of Mobility and Infrastructure (DOMI) is developing a Mobility Vision Plan for the next 50 years! While on its surface this may not seem like an environmental justice issue tied to vacant or disinvested land, the implications of this plan are incredibly far-reaching. As the main entity tasked with managing the city's transportation infrastructure, DOMI governs many aspects of your movement through your day-to-day life. In addition to the roads most of us use…

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Community Keystones

Blog by Sean Cuff, Policy Fellow In early August, I interviewed CommunityCare Steward and long-time Larimer resident Tab Duckett outside his adopted lots near Thompson and Joseph Streets. He and his lawnmower have been fixtures of the community, and represent the outsized role neighbors have had to take on to keep their blocks maintained. He was born and raised in the neighborhood. In between at least ten horn honks, waves, and “hey there’s” with passersby, we talked about how the…

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RVP Reflection Series: What did Masoud see?

Throughout my experience at the Reclaiming Vacant Properties (RVP) conference in Atlanta this year, I encountered a storm of new, fresh, and different ideas about how to address many of the concerns generated by cycles of disinvestment within 'rust belt' cities. Beyond these techniques though, I think the far more valuable treasure gleaned at this event comes in the form of contacts and relationships with other folks performing similar work in parallel with Grounded across this country. Their insights, challenges,…

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Planting Seeds for the Future

Pittsburgh, as the nation within which it resides, has a storied past awash with inequality. Both here and in the United States at large, a great deal of this inequity stems from the fact that the means of production (mainly land) are controlled by a small number of people relative to the total population. Historically, this has been the case for just about as long as this country has existed. As our worries mount in the face of climate instability,…

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GSI…. but why?

Background Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is a city defined in large part by water: from the 3 large rivers that help to outline the city's center, to the snowfall that periodically graces this area's winters, this element shapes human life in the region. Historically, the waterways running through the Pittsburgh area have been used for transportation (both of people and goods), sustenance (through farming and fishing), and recreation, among other pursuits. However, the influence of water in this region is not only…

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Permaculture Design: Ecological Solutions to Planetary Problems

For the purposes of sorting out the issues our world currently faces and quelling the fires which threaten to consume us there is one system of ethics that seems particularly well suited. This system, developed from the synthesis of indigenous wisdom about Earth systems and modern best practices in the management of human populations is called Permaculture. Coined by Bill Mollison, the term permaculture is a combination of the words permanent and agriculture (or culture). However, it is an approach…

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The Bigger Picture

A lot has been said and studied about the economics of vacant land and there is certainly more to say and study.  When it comes to the economics of vacant land, it is best described as a negative externality, which if remains unmaintained creates a substantial social cost to its surroundings. There are obvious financial damages to our local institutions and subsequently the public as consumers of those public services.  And there are far less measurable, but obvious impacts on…

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A Story of Vacant Land (Part 2): The Evolution

Have you ever wondered why or how the vacant lot next to your home got there?  Obviously, a series of events had to happen to create that neglected space. Vacancy didn’t show up overnight.  A combination of macro forces and micro decisions, each of which is interrelated led to what you see in so many of Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods today.  With over 27,000 vacant lots in the City of Pittsburgh, something has happened at a massive scale. Understanding the history and…

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A Story of Vacant Land (Part 1): Costs & Benefits

Numbers don’t lie.  Well, if we are being honest, they sometimes do.  As community leaders, advocates, and policy analysts, it’s our job to think critically about data.  In short, numbers mean something, which is why it’s so important to contextualize them. They represent real people associated with real costs.  When analyzing costs and benefits, nothing is more important than humanizing the numbers. Let’s consider some of the numbers and truths with regards to vacant lot maintenance.  In Allegheny County, 67.3%…

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