FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 22, 2023
PITTSBURGH – Joe Rockey, the Republican nominee for Allegheny County Executive, visited Mellon Park today to warn that unsafe and unsanitary conditions threatening businesses and residents downtown could become the “new normal” under his opponent, Sara Innamorato.
“Providing public safety is the number one priority for any local government,” Rockey said. “What we have now is a dangerous condition that helps nobody: not local business, not the workforce, and least of all the homeless individuals who have been abandoned as part of a social experiment that is clearly not working.”
Sara Innamorato has openly spoken about making Allegheny County “a laboratory for progressive ideas,” Rockey noted. “We’re already seeing the results of this kind of experimentation.”
Rockey stood alongside several Smithfield Street business owners who say their clientele has been hesitant to come to the neighborhood because of open drug use and human waste in the streets. They said the City of Pittsburgh sweeps and hoses the area every morning, amid garbage and debris left strewn by people who continue to congregate outside a now-closed shelter at the Smithfield Street Church.
“My building’s still occupied, But it’s only a matter of time,” said Yuriy Berkman, who owns Yuriy’s Jewelry as well as another building across the street. “One of my tenants said he’s going to close the business.”
Several once-vibrant businesses line Smithfield next to Berkman’s store. Rockey has pledged previously to make Pittsburgh “the safest city in America” by stepping up enforcement and addressing the underlying poverty and neglect that have led to Downtown’s decline.
Rockey participated in the founding of Second Avenue Commons homeless shelter and serves on the board of St. Joseph’s House of Hospitality, said permitting open drug use and disruptive behavior are not sensible strategies for dealing with homelessness.
“This is the path that San Francisco and Portland have taken under far-left leaders. It’s what will become the new normal for Pittsburgh if we allow our county to be used as a ‘laboratory’ for these dangerous experiments.”
Rockey spoke at Mellon Square Park, which earlier this summer was the scene of a knife fight that drew a plea for help from Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy CEO Catherine Qureshi, who called conditions at the park “grotesque and unsafe,” describing feces and urine in the public spaces and 30 individuals “who appear to be highly intoxicated.”
Local businessmen provided photographs of used needles, rubbish and human waste strewn throughout Smithfield area.
“It helps no one – homeless or otherwise – to allow this situation to fester. We cannot allow the county’s commercial core to disintegrate under social experiments that are so obviously failing our citizens,” Rockey said.