© Hotshot Images by AKVNEWS/Paul R. Lowes/Staff Photographer
NEW KENSINGTON, PA. – Residents from Parnassus, New Kensington and Mount Vernon packed into council chambers Tuesday night to talk about reclaiming their neighborhoods and voicing their concerns directly to the Mayor, Council members and the Police Chief.
This meeting wasn’t just about the escalation of drugs or crime that’s ever-present in the city. Absentee landlords ignoring city ordinances and neighbors having to put up with tall grass and garbage was at the top of the list. Residents are tired of having unwanted neighbors moving in and out of abandoned properties. Several residents expressed fears from retaliation when they turn someone in to code enforcement or call police.
Residents want more communication from city officials and better organization of watch groups. Mayor Tom Guzzo talked about short-term issues that need immediate attention, and long-term plans that the city can initiate to help make New Kensington a safe place to live. Some residents said they are ready to move, but they don’t want to. Some said they were born and raised in New Kensington; it’s their hometown.
Residents fear the crime is just moving from neighborhood to neighborhood and Mount Vernon will be next said one woman from on the hill. We don’t want out kids witnessing drug deals, said one resident. Some areas of Parnassus are riddled with drug infestation and it’s not the same as it used to be residents complained. Residents want more police presence, more visibility in the alley’s late at night and speeding curtailed.
By and large, most of the residents seemed pleased with police response times. Some complained that when they made calls to 911, no one showed up. New Kensington Police Chief Tom Klawinski reminded residents when they call 911, many of the calls from cell phones go into Allegheny County. Chief Klawinski said residents must tell 911 the call is for Westmoreland County or some calls might not go through.
Anthony Bruni, Code Enforcement Officer sat on the hot seat answering questions about triplexes, duplexes, and code enforcement issues. Officer Bruni said his office still has to go through the system with enforcement of city codes and ordinances.
Several residents got in line at the podium to voice their specific concerns, many times exceeding the two-minute limit. Mayor Guzzo and Council gave everyone in attendance ample time to speak their mind and addressed their issues one on one.
At the end of the night, Mayor Guzzo said it wasn’t the Council against the residents, or the residents against council. It’s about working together to recognize and solve the issues the City of New Kensington and the residents face together.