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PBS comes to city to film documentary

Published: Tue, March 22, 2011 @ 12:01 a.m.


The Vindicator (Youngstown)

Videographer Andy Fredericks records the demolition of a vacant house on Firnley Avenue on Youngstown’s South Side. Blueprint America began more than three years ago and examines the nation’s public infrastructure.


What: “Need to Know”

When: Set to air in late April or May

Topic: Examining America’s infrastructure, including Youngstown’s plan to shrink itself.

By Ashley Luthern



Linda Jenkins snapped photos as a backhoe tugged down the roof of a vacant house at 3219 Firnley Ave.

“No. 1, this was an eyesore, and No. 2, when houses are left open, you have young kids hiding in there. I was afraid to come home,” said Jenkins, who has lived on Firnley, across from that vacant South Side house, for 30 years.

Jenkins wasn’t the only one capturing the moment on film Monday.

A crew from Blueprint America, a PBS project that broadly examines America’s infrastructure, recorded the demolition for use in its upcoming feature on the city.

“This year, we’re really looking at the efforts of Youngstown and other cities to reorganize and to shrink themselves in order to better deliver services like transportation, electricity and housing,” said executive producer Kathy Hughes. “We think that what’s going on in Youngstown is very interesting.”

The project is set to air in late April or May for “Need to Know,” a Friday night PBS news program.

It’s not the first time the city will be featured on public broadcasting. A week ago, National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” aired a segment about the city.

Jenkins and Jim London, president of the Idora Neighborhood Association and a Blueprint America interview subject, said they are pleased PBS has come to Youngstown.

“I want everyone to see what’s going on here. ... We’re trying to clean up our city. One day, a home will replace this one,” Jenkins said, motioning toward the wreckage across the street.

The Blueprint America crew will focus on the Youngstown 2010 Plan, Mayor Jay Williams and neighborhood residents, including the I.C.U. Neighborhood Block Watch, Hughes said.

Victoria Allen is part of the I.C.U. (“I See You”) block watch for residents on East Philadelphia, East Boston, East Avondale and East Lucius avenues. The group meets at 7 p.m. every third Monday at Metro Assembly of God, 2536 South Ave.

Allen said the block watch discussed their daily problems, such as barking dogs and drug houses.

“I see there are problems; we just have to find a way to fix them. Even if you have an officer on every street corner that still wouldn’t stop what happens in the city. I don’t know what the answer is, but we’ll try to work on it together as a group,” Allen said.

Tom McNamara, who is leading the crew during this week’s filming, said Youngstown serves as model for other Rust Belt cities.

“Youngstown is losing population, and a lot of Midwest cities continue to lose population. ... How are they going to survive? We’re asking that and listening to a lot of responses,” McNamara said.

He added that Youngs-town in particular has become a prime example of a shrinking city.

“You’re sitting in a city that is in some sense of the vanguard of the shrinking-cities movement. Youngstown is just one of those cities. Not every mayor of every city wants to use the phrase shrinking. ... Other mayors like to call it ‘right-sizing’ and ‘re-inventing’ so that’s why I think Youngstown is getting a decent amount of press coverage. A lot of eyes will be watching the process,” McNamara said.

Although the right- sizing phrase is used on the mayor’s website, Williams doesn’t shy away from the word shrinking.

“The work is too difficult and important to be caught up on terminology. We are shrinking, but that doesn’t mean we have to be inferior,” Williams said.

Williams said the 2010 census, which showed a more than 18 percent decrease in population, highlights the importance of the work of city officials.

“I don’t think anyone did not expect a decline, the surprise was the rate of the decline. It underscores how important it is that we keep working and say let’s look at the shortcomings” of the 2010 Plan, he said.

The mayor said national attention from sources such as PBS has a positive effect on the city’s image.

“Blueprint America will tell not how the city rose and fell — that’s been told — but how city is coming back and becoming relevant after a cataclysmic economic collapse,” Williams said.


1UnionForever(1470 comments)posted 5 years, 4 months ago

Did anyone catch Secret Millionaire on Sunday? Gary, Indiana looked exactly like Ytown looks today. Empty and hopeless with a third of the city buildings and houses empty and abandoned. Yes, the best way to go is tearing down all these structures and creating green space for futue use. That would eliminate places for the drug abusers and hoodrats to hang out.

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2Photoman(1249 comments)posted 5 years, 4 months ago

Perhaps we could leave the solid structures standing and, instead of targeting vacant home, we target criminals. Neighbors, taxi drivers who deliver "customers" and police officers can all identify from which homes drugs are being dealt. Where will the money come from to maintain these vacant lots? If not maintained they will end up being littered, weed infested eyesores every bit as ugly as the vacant homes.

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3republicanRick(1741 comments)posted 5 years, 4 months ago

Tear them all down and quickly. You can't rebuild until you rip out the old.

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4Bigben(1996 comments)posted 5 years, 4 months ago

Another vote for tearing them down.

I don't know about this plan to rebuild. Anyone have information on that?

Would chunks of former occupied land be better off becoming a part of Mil Creek Park?

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5wcid(26 comments)posted 5 years, 4 months ago

Tearing down buildings are symbolic of the Bush administration in my opinion.

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6Reader(126 comments)posted 5 years, 4 months ago

In favor in tearing them down. Piece them out and auction the old fixtures, mantles, banisters, beams...etc. Put that money toward supplies to seed, plant grass, fruits, vegetables, trees,etc.
The fire departents could burn the buildings for training purposes, the process of tearing some down could go for skilled trades training through the one stop, the leveling of land and replanting could be done by those collecting welfare, on work release or rehabilation programs.
We don't have to bring the wealthy suburbanites in to clean out the city, the city residents could use this process to better themselves and train for a skill or trade. Being part of a positive community effort will help those living in the area have pride in their work and their neighborhood.

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7poorvalley(7 comments)posted 5 years, 4 months ago

wcid....stupid comment. Blame your darling unions and closed shop laws for this! Last one out of NE Ohio, turn out the lights!

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8endthismess(464 comments)posted 5 years, 4 months ago

wcid needs to leave Bush without a voice-which is exactly where he wants to be now, out of the circle. Just MOVE forward. The answers are in the future, not the past.

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9Owlguin(50 comments)posted 5 years, 4 months ago

I'd like to see a 2011 report on the success of the 2010 plan. I would like to know how many vacant homes have been torn down and how many vacant homes remain standing. I think the plan needs to be updated, and it's a good one. It then needs to be extended to show the savings we can experience by downsizing. However, I wouldn't go so far as saying that someone will build on that vacant lot someday, when 15,000 people per decade are moving out of town.

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10poorvalley(7 comments)posted 5 years, 4 months ago

or dying waiting for the unions to bring back the mills and jobs!

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11HillaryH(1 comment)posted 5 years, 4 months ago

This is actually the house I was raised in. I havent lived there in 20+ years. It's crazy to see it in this condition. My dad built the back of this house with an old barn. Great memories there, sad to see what it looks like now!

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12Bigben(1996 comments)posted 5 years, 4 months ago

" I wouldn't go so far as saying that someone will build on that vacant lot someday, when 15,000 people per decade are moving out of town"- - - -That is sort of what I was thinking.I just wanted to know if anyone had any word about such plans.

I called that Treez PLease organization to see if they would plant something besides a foreign sterile pear tree in the new "meadow". That doesn't sound like the reforestation that would be needed.

I spoke about the need for native species so we don't have a future forest of death as these ornamental pears produce nothing for any native wild life nor birds.I found out that Dominion funds them .The same group ripping trees out in our state forests.

Go figure.can anything be done correctly in this area ?I told her I would volunteer to help if they planted native species if not forget it.

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13Stan(9923 comments)posted 5 years, 4 months ago

There is no need to tear down historic structures . This one could have been easily moved to the brownfields and offered rent free . The culture could have used the savings in housing for street medication so they can function . We must be more compassionate to their needs .

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14iBuck(231 comments)posted 5 years, 4 months ago

Maybe they should tear down city hall and house the council and planners in one second-hand un-air-conditioned double-wide in the combat zone, and set the annual salaries + benefits for them at $1 apiece. Perhaps then they might begin to get the message. I seem to recall Ohio having gotten by quite well without an income tax for over 150 years. And how long was it before the building codes and zoning made it difficult for people to have housing?

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