June 15, 2013
The Greater Pittston Chamber of Commerce held a mid-year breakfast Friday at the Gramercy Ballroom & Restaurant with more than 200-members attended.
Attorney Michael I. Butera served as chairman and master of ceremonies.
A special presentation for the 2013 Outstanding Business of the Year was awarded to the Gramercy Restaurant and Ballroom. Michael Augello, owner, accepted the award and paid homage to his father, Michael Sr.
The award was presented by the 2012 winner, Joseph Pupa, owner of Interstate Building Materials, Inc.
Mark Davis, a representative of state Sen. John Yudichak, D-Nanticoke, presented a proclamation to Augello from the state Senate.
Michael Lombardo of the Pittston City Redevelopment Authority was one of the two principal speakers along with Judith Aita, president of West Pittston Tomorrow.
Lombardo discussed city dynamics encompassing four points: operations, neighborhoods, Main Street, and quality of life in programing and activities for Pittstonians.
“Those four ingredients are really essential in moving us forward,” Lombardo said.
“Pittston can’t look good for the moment, and we need to learn the dangers that have gone on in the past that let Pittston slip backwards,” Lombardo said. “That’s the key to economic development in the downtown.”
According to Lombardo, the City has three administrators with advanced degrees in Public Administration namely Pittston Administrator Joe Moscovitz, Operations Coordinator David Hines and Joseph Chacke, executive director of the Redevelopment Authority.
He added the city would finish this year with a very healthy general fund balance.
“That is really critical as we move forward and that allows us to be more focused and more aggressive and take some conservative risks and do some things that we otherwise wouldn’t do.”
Lombardo announced the Riverfront Condominium project, a four-story apartment complex to be built next to Cooper’s, finally has seen activity. A crane has been set in place and when the weather cooperates, construction of the 32-unit condo will begin in earnest.
“We plan on, over the next 18-months, on introducing 60-new residential units that will be market rate units,” Lombardo added. “We are also looking at are parks.
He concluded by saying, “There still a lot of work to be done. There is another 15 to 20 years just to get it close to getting it to where we believe it really needs to be. While we are excited about all that has happened. We need to keep moving forward.”
Aita has been president of West Pittston Tomorrow since its incorporation as a non-profit organization in January. She previously served as chairwoman of the steering committee, which worked with the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s long-term recovery team and hundreds of West Pittston residents to formulate a plan to help the 150-year old borough recover from the devastating flood of September 2011.
Aita, a lifelong resident of West Pittston, spoke about state of West Pittston, post flood where it overtook 880 homes and 26 businesses. Although the Borough has been coming back, there is a lot of work to be done.
West Pittston Tomorrow, along with the help of FEMA’s long-term recovery team, came up with 35-projects on revitalizing the Borough.
“It’s difficult to prioritizing these 35-projects when everything needs to be tackled at once,” Aita said. “But right now we are working on housing. We have a critical meeting coming up on Wednesday, June 26 at Wyoming Area High School auditorium. Fed state and county officials will be there to discuss major changes in flood insurance, ways to minimize damage in case of future floods, what money might be available for homeowners, and to explain the levee study the Borough has requested.”
One of the plans by West Pittston Tomorrow is to take the unused water company garage on Susquehanna Avenue, not far from the cemetery, and to convert it to open-air pavilion and a river observation deck.
A section of the building would be made into a museum displaying West Pittston and Native American artifact.
Aita went on to say the library has plans for a new facility with the latest technology and community arts center to host community events.
Other plans including revitalizing the Luzerne and Wyoming Avenue corners that was devastated by the flood were several buildings were raised. Community gardens will replace homes that were torn down due to structural damage by the flood.
According to Aita, the money that has been promised to the Borough has not come through with the exception of gaming money that is going to flood recovery.
“We are a determined lot. We will persevere. We will get this done.”