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Athletic Assoc. Prez Concerned with Refugees' Use of Whitehall Fields

Gary and Melanie Remlinger spoke to the Whitehall Council about that issue on Wednesday night.

Refugees on Borough Fields

Like it or not, Whitehall Borough has been forced to handle a large influx of refugee families to its community over the past several years.

And a great deal of those people have taken residence in the apartments of the Wallace (Prospect) Park area, very near some borough fields that are also near and dear to the hearts of those running the Baldwin-Whitehall Athletic Association (BWAA)—a baseball and softball organization open to children from all communities.

The president of the BWAA—Gary Remlinger—and his wife, Melanie, both of Varner Road, spoke to the Whitehall Council at its meeting on Wednesday night, expressing concern over how some refugees have been treating those parks—specifically, Prospect and Highland.

According to Gary, large groups of refugees have been using those parks' ball fields frequently (mostly Prospect but also Highland when Prospect is occupied) to play soccer, and when they're finished, they often leave the facilities in what Gary calls an "embarrassing" state.

"I'm not just talking about the physical field (at Prospect) itself," Gary said, "(but) if you go down and look at the field, you can see how they've worn a path through our outfield, where it's basically dirt.

"So that's just one thing, but it's the overall appearance of the way they leave the place down there when they're playing on the fields—bending the fences, leaving garbage all over the place. We've had people urinating in front of the concession stand.

"It's just a total embarrassment, to me, for our community, how they treat that area."

The Remlingers could not prove that any of the alleged culprits were refugees, but Councilman Robert McKown agreed with Gary's assumption that they most likely were.

The Remlingers also said that some groups of people having been crossing through residents' property while on their way to and from Highland Park (near The ACLD Tillotson School).

"I imagine you've had several complaints of them walking through the neighborhood, causing problems, whether they're breaking into things, destroying things," Gary said. "I don't have a solution for you today, but I do want to bring that to your awareness.

"I'm a resident of that side of (Route) 51. I expect our area to be nice, well-kept, safe ... and that's not the case with the residents that we're having a problem with from Prospect."

Melanie called the situation "a community issue."

"I don't know what this borough received to let all these refugees to be brought into Prospect," she said, "but I tell you what: It is bringing down this side of Whitehall.

"(Prospect Park) is a disaster."

Councilman Glenn Nagy confirmed that Catholic Charities of Pittsburgh as well as other groups (such as Jewish Family & Children's Service of Pittsburgh) have been bringing refugees to Whitehall for some time, but Nagy said that Whitehall receives no funding as a result of that.

"There was no quid pro quo," Nagy said. "Catholic Charities did that on their own, and they do it all over the country.

"It's been an ongoing problem, and to the extent that we're respectful of people's civil rights, we've tried to deal with it as best we can. But I don't know what the solution is."

For examples of how the situation has been a problem for Whitehall, Nagy pointed to multiple cases originating from the Prospect-area residences involving Whitehall police and firefighters trying to deal with "cultural differences" between them and residents, such as actions being illegal in the United States but not in those residents' home countries. Language barriers have been tough to break, too, Nagy said.

McKown said that Whitehall administration has been trying to acclimate refugees to life in Whitehall not just with police intervention but with "productive" measures, as well, such as the Whitehall Public Library's LEARN Bus program and literacy initiatives.

One suggestion brought up during Wednesday night's discussion was for the BWAA to convert the Prospect Park field into a soccer-only facility and to stick to other borough parks for baseball and softball. Snyder Park, on the other side of Route 51, could be an option.

"The fields over here are underutilized," Councilman Harold Berkoben said.

Council President William J. Veith suggested that Gary meet with members of the borough's Public Safety Committee—chaired by McKown—to look into possible solutions to this issue.

Check back with the Baldwin-Whitehall Patch on Thursday for more news from Wednesday's Whitehall Council meeting.

And click here for more Whitehall Borough news.

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Interested Taxpayer November 24, 2012 at 04:33 PM
Another Resident --- absolutely you have a right to complain and so do the others who work hard, pay taxes and have pride in their home (for which they paid), school district and community. My daughter recently graduated from the high school. We originally moved here 20 years ago because we believed the area to be affordable and the school district was good (at that time). Then things changed. Baldwin Whitehall did become the dumping ground for Catholic Charities to place persons from other countries as well as persons from the inner city neighborhoods. This DID have an effect on the townships and borough and a BIG effect on our school district. We basically had to slow our kids down so that the new kids could catch up because they did not have enough, if any, education at all. How fair was that for these kids and our own students. Catholic Charities should have found some way to get these kids caught up before dumping them into our system. How fair was that for these incoming students? My daughter told me about things that went on in the school as well. She talked about how the refugee students and the black students did not get along and that there were different gangs. She told me about the vandalism in the bathrooms. She told me about the fights in the cafeteria. We have property not too far from Prospect Park and I also have had to pick up trash that has been left or thrown in my front yard from groups walking and cutting through.
Interested Taxpayer November 24, 2012 at 04:35 PM
This is not racist ... this is real. For those of you who do not have to deal with it ... you have no idea. I agree. Let's place some of these families in Mt. Lebanon, Uppity St. Clair, Peters, etc. See how long they put up with this in their protected neighborhoods and districts. Shame on Catholic Charities. They need to take care of what they start.
NE12Ukid November 24, 2012 at 04:56 PM
Good suggestions. Many working together will get more done than a few complaining.
FF19 November 24, 2012 at 06:53 PM
Whitehall Public Library- I commend your efforts and I know that you are overwhelmed with challenges. I also support the Library during its annual appeal and will double my contribution this year as you need support. As a volunteer firefighter, I share your enrichment as I know that you are making a difference. I am not angry at the refugees. I AM ANGRY AT THE ORGANIZATIONS who continue to bring refugees into our community to fend for themselves. I have approached Catholic Charities about the issue and was met in response with arrogance or the comment that I am a "bad Catholic." I hate to say after seeing what these poor souls have gone through to get here and how they are left to fend for themsleves after being given a promise of a better life, I tend to agree with bonita that "the movers and shakers" of Catholic Charties need to step up to plate and support the communities they are settling refugees in first before bringing more families in for settlement.
Tyrion Lannister November 24, 2012 at 08:28 PM
I pick up trash in my yard too, and I live nowhere near Prospect Park. Some people are just litterbugs. Stop blaming 100% of "those refugees." Because the ones working 3rd-shift at a bread factory (a.k.a. low-paying, manual-labor jobs that local Americans are far above taking) & also taking English classes after that are a little too busy to throw trash in your precious Whitehall yard.
cc November 25, 2012 at 04:17 AM
FF19 it isn't just Catholic Charities that are moving them into our neighborhood, it is many religious organizations that are part of it. If you blame one you have to blame all of them and talk to each of the organizations. My daughter is friends with a few of the girl that came here that are considered refugees and their parents are trying to adapt to our country and customs that we have. Others need help in learning that we don't take from other people property.
cc November 25, 2012 at 04:41 AM
Lets tear down the patch off of Horning Road and some of the deplorable homes over in Baldwin off of Churchview Road too. There are a few owners up in Prospect Park, Whitehall Place took over part of Prospect Park and they have been trying to make improvements up there. My friend lives a few houses up from the Rental office and they have been gutting apartments, putting new roofs on places and trying to make it a better place. The apartments down by Wallace Park are different owners whom need to fix that part of the area up.
bd November 25, 2012 at 04:04 PM
cc - If Whitehall Place is as dilapidated as you say (and I have no reason to doubt that) , then demand that Whitehall Council send the Code Enforcement Officer there to law down the law. Do inspections, charge the owners for repeat violations and get this property up to code requirements. Of course, do not just single them out but make it a part of the overall enforcement process. I think you need to wake a few members of council up because from what I see, a few of our council people are older than dirt and need a good shaking to get them to do their jobs.
cc November 26, 2012 at 06:19 AM
bd- I did not say the part that Whitehall Place is dilapidated. Over the last two years they have made many improvements up in their sections of the complex in the town homes they own and gutting out the smaller apartment building between the town homes. From what my friend says the ones that they are renting to have jobs and have been keeping the place nice. When you get over by Wallace Park, that is where they have most of the refugees and that place is turning into an eyesore. My friend is happy with all the work they have done in the Whitehall Place Section of the place since she lives in that section and tries to avoid going down near Wallace Park section. Look at Leland Park that is in Baldwin Borough, how many years did it take the County to step in and take over the place that the Borough did nothing about and Baldwin Police couldn't keep under control and still have to pay rent to keep a Mini Police Dept up there. The people that lived in this section of Baldwin drove business away.
cc November 26, 2012 at 06:25 AM
bd didn't read the article in full
All-are-one November 26, 2012 at 01:53 PM
Your vodka is Russian. Your pizza is Italian. Your kebab is Turkish. Your democracy is Greek. Your coffee is Brazilian. Your tea is Sri Lankan. Your shirt is Indian. Your oil is Saudi Arabian. You car is Japanese. Your electronics are Chinese. Your numbers Arabic, your letters Latin. And you complain that your neighbour is an immigrant? Lets try to learn good things from them and teach them good stuff and make a better community!
NE12Ukid November 26, 2012 at 02:31 PM
bd 12:06 pm on Sunday, November 25, 2012 If Whitehall Place is as dilapidated as you say (and I have no reason to doubt that) , then demand that Whitehall Council send the Code Enforcement Officer there to law down the law. Do inspections, charge the owners for repeat violations and get this property up to code requirements..... FF19 12:14 am on Thursday, November 22, 2012 Even though there has been many attempts to upgrade the area, the properties of Whitehall Place are becoming run down as a whole. Hopefully they will become so run down they are condemned, torn down and single family housing is built in its place. That would be the perfect solution. `````````````````` Sure, it's a solution, if you have the money. bd's suggestion just sounds more do-able. I still just wonder how many NEIGHBORS have extended a helping hand is all.
cc November 26, 2012 at 02:50 PM
concerned - I agree they shouldn't be allowed to steal. Someone has to teach these people that they can't go into peoples yards and take their things. I feel sorry for the people that own homes up in this section and have to deal with all of this.
cc November 26, 2012 at 02:54 PM
I agree with you that they should be moving these people in all communities and not dumping them in Whitehall.
LC November 26, 2012 at 07:09 PM
There are refugees in many of the communities that you mention. There are families in Mt. Lebanon and Castle Shannon. Many refugees go on to establish themselves and buy homes in these communities. Before assuming that destruction is done by the refugees, be sure of that. Blaming an entire group of people for the actions of select few is also wrong. It spreads racism and hatred.
Michael Crough November 27, 2012 at 04:39 AM
This is just a case of vandalism. A stronger police presence or a security force by the owners of Whitehall Place is the only thing that will stop it. As far as private property around the fields...protect your own property!!!
John Williams November 27, 2012 at 08:33 AM
Funny! And appropriate. I suspect that this issue will lessen in time and people will do good things to make that happen.
NE12Ukid November 27, 2012 at 01:26 PM
Another view: http://baldwin-whitehall.patch.com/articles/watch-refugees-enjoy-thanksgiving-at-whitehall-church#youtube_video-12344319 tHANKS, Patch!
Robert Edward Healy, III November 27, 2012 at 01:47 PM
Our pleasure. SHIM put together a very nice video.
Whitehall Public Library November 27, 2012 at 09:30 PM
Beautiful video that captures the real meaning of Thanksgiving. Community and gratitude. In the ESL class that I tutor in Prospect Park we spent a good deal of time communicating the history behind the original Thanksgiving; learning about how the Native Americans taught the Pilgrims how to best survive in their new country. Centuries later the message remains--this made my day.
cc November 28, 2012 at 05:23 PM
Our taxes that were paying to keep the school district going keep on adding more to the ESL Budget every year and taking from the other programs. Catholic Charities, Jewish Foundation and other religious groups that are bringing these people to our community should also be paying to teach them English. These Charities should be giving money to our school district each year to teach the ones that they keep on moving to our community but don't and then they say we are in the wrong. We as tax payers want better educations for our children then what they are getting and paying our taxes for. I volunteer at a food bank that serves many of the refugees and the ones that bring them to the church get upset with us that we can't give them extra food. We give out food to a minimum of 500 on a monthly bases and we can't play favoritism to one group of people and give others less food. We actually have to keep tallies on how many items come in, what type of food they are and how many bags a family of 2, 3 or 4, etc get. It isn't a easy job to begin with but getting yelled at because they are refugees they deserve to get more isn't right to the others that also need the help of food banks.
Jesca Leigh November 29, 2012 at 07:11 PM
20 Yr Resident--That is a good reminder for us all. Refugees are not the same as immigrants. They come from war torn countries, from famine, from a struggle many of us in America (God willing) will never know. Many have lost not only their native land and life as they know it, but family members, loved ones, their homes, and so on. Often, they come not knowing English. I don't know whether they vandalize, but residents of the area have a unique opportunity to offer friendship to these individuals. Perhaps if they had felt more at home in their new land, they would treat it respectfully! Maybe try helping these people, what does complaining solve??
Matt A. November 30, 2012 at 03:59 PM
NE12Ukid how many pies did you bake for the refugees and how many did you go introduce yourself too since you have all the answers to them destroying property in the neighborhood, stealing the fruits and vegetables from our yards, taking porch furniture, a ladder that was laying next to my shed. The same refugees who steal from your yard say they don't understand English, but they are down the 7-11 able to buy lottery tickets, food and cigarettes. Bake a pie and introducing yourself is not going to stop the vandals nor them urinating on the snack bar.
Matt A. November 30, 2012 at 04:08 PM
Most Cultural don't steal other peoples properties. When my grand parents came from Italy, they learned to read, write English and to live by the laws in the United States. These Refugees want us to change to fit their customs and it isn't all of them, but a good many of them that feel that they are entitled to take what isn't chained down. The residence of Whitehall need to start going to meetings and put there feet down and fight so that no more of these refugees are placed in our neighborhoods. From what I heard from a friend that lives close to the Residency of South Hills, they are now moving them in there.
Matt A. November 30, 2012 at 05:39 PM
Tyrion Lannister you should try talking to these refugees that have climbed over your fence so that they could come into your yard and steal everything from your garden and the fruit trees that you planted in your yard for your own use. I plant enough so that I can freeze for winter months but this year I wasn't able to enjoy any of the food from my garden as it was cleaned out by these refugees, who think they have a right to what is growing on your property. Those 3rd shift jobs in bread factories pay $9 an hour plus benefits. They are also get their rent subsidized, collect food stamps, get help with utilities and walk around with their free government phones, their kids drive Lexus, BMW and other expensive cars to school.. It isn't all refugees that do the stealing or throw litter over you yard but there are some that think they are entitled to do this and the people that live up by Wallace Park are sick and tired of this. Tyrion, you would change your attitude if they were living near or next to you.
Concerned November 30, 2012 at 11:47 PM
Did you teach them where to pee and where not to pee? Because that seems like more of a problem.
Another Concerned Resident December 01, 2012 at 02:52 AM
I just wanted to put my two cents in to this conversation. I believe that refugees are immigrants .. they are coming to this country for whatever reasons to live in this country. It is horrible that they have had to see their countries involved in senseless wars and see their friends and family members hurt and/or killed. Yes, many of them, if not ALL of them come here not knowing any English. That is unfair to them absolutely. I know that people in the communities of Baldwin and Whitehall have welcomed them. Residents have donated food, clothing, etc. to help these families. I can remember getting notes from the different schools in the district talking about food drives and clothing drives for the needy refugees. We contributed gladly. I also know that some (not all) of the teens (refugees) attending the high school showed very little respect for the new building and destroyed fixtures in it. Why? Does this make them feel at home>? I believe they have been shown friendship and caring. So you are saying that WE need to do more for them to do what they should be doing ... treating what they have been given from the kindness and generosity of our residents to treat OUR property with respect? Please .... we ALL have been helping these people. We have helped with food, clothing, housing, friendship, etc. It is time they show us that they appreciate what we GIVE them. And when someone pees or defecates on my property I WILL COMPLAIN.
NE12Ukid December 01, 2012 at 03:56 AM
Nice that you have done something to help, and not nice that some teens have destroyed property or acted inappropriately. Certainly that is wrong, whether it is refugee teens or our own born and bred in America teens. But as you say, it's SOME, not all of these teens---in either group.
observer December 03, 2012 at 04:55 PM
I sympathize with all of you who have had your property destroyed. (I get upset when someone carelessly throws a candy wrapper onto my lawn--and that's just a candy wrapper!) Our home means a lot to us; it is our pride, and it is exasperating when other people don't respect our space. I think everyone would agree that no one would want his/her property vandalized. To say otherwise would risk being untrue. I think it was wrong of the author of this article to start off with "Like it or not..." That left a bad taste in my mouth from the beginning. Why wouldn't we like it that our community is home to refugees? To imply that we might not makes us sound like haters, that we are not open to helping others. What we hate and what we are not open to is destruction to our community. Maybe we could use our words with more care. Maybe we can accept that some refugees (and not all) and also some U.S. citizens vandalize and trespass. I can't imagine the words "those refugees" are spoken without a negative tone when we speak them at the dinner table or with friends or with family. I would hate that our frustration at seeing our lawns being peed on makes us appear racist...because when we speak in a certain way about a group of people, it does.
NE12Ukid December 03, 2012 at 05:45 PM
observer 11:55 am on Monday, December 3, 2012 I sympathize with all of you who have had your property destroyed. ``````````````````` Of course, but you should have seen the attacks on those who formerly complained on Patch about their property being destroyed by cats owned by people who let them run free and cause such damage. At least we can work to better communicate with and teach our new neighbors; talking to those cat people is impossible!

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