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PITTSBURGH, PA - You often hear that Pittsburgh is a city of great neighborhoods. Now, WQED producer Rick Sebak has put together a new program that celebrates a few areas in Western Pennsylvania that illustrate some of the factors that make neighborhoods around here charming and comfortable places to live.

The program has a very long official title: “It’s The Neighborhoods & The Suburbs & The Small Cities & Towns & All The Surrounding Hills & Valleys That Really Make Pittsburgh,” but that says-it-all title is usually shortened to the more manageable “It’s The Neighborhoods.” It premieres Wednesday, December 1 at 8 p.m. on WQED tv13.

“We are never scientific or logical in our selection of subjects for these programs,” Rick admitted. “We look for good lively stories where we’re likely to encounter lots of talkative people, and this time we wanted to feature mostly people in their neighborhoods.”

Rick’s searching took him and his crew to Bloomfield in September for Little Italy Days (that featured the Columbus Day parade a few weeks early), to Lawrenceville for the tour of homes there, and to Collier Township for the monthly meeting of the Hi Neighbor Club, among other places.

“We always want to be surprised,” said Rick. “But it’s hard to get documentary footage of neighbors in action. We feel lucky to have gathered some stories of how important and useful neighbors can be. And we heard over and over again about how long people around here have lived in the same neighborhood. That really seems to matter a lot in establishing the character of a place. And long-time residents seem to encourage other folks to do the same, to stay and help make the area even better.”

People who have lived for a long time on the South Side Slopes have lots of city steps to help them get up and down the steep terrain, and everyone is invited to the annual Step Trek there on the Slopes to experience the healthy benefits of the many flights in that neighborhood. Folks who enjoy residing a long time in Regent Square also obviously love showing the place off during the annual neighborhood 5K race known as The Run Around The Square. “It was amazing how often people in very different types of neighborhoods expressed a real love for the places they call home,” said Rick.

There seem to be no rules when it comes to neighborhoods. The WQED production team visited old districts with distinct ethnic affinities like Polish Hill as well as some of the city’s new developments like Washington’s Landing and Summerset at Frick Park (both built atop land that was once thought unusable). One story features a classic corner grocery called Zoscak’s Market that has been in the same location in the 10th Ward of McKeesport since 1934, while another part of the program highlights some of the joys of a great little coffee shop called Enrico’s Tazzo D’Oro, brewing great java in Highland Park just since 1999.

Viewers get to see the newly renovated Homewood branch of the Carnegie Library that is now again as beautiful as when it opened in 1910. There is a visit to the fascinating homes of Aluminum City Terrace, a 1942 experiment in wartime housing designed by architects Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer from the German Bauhaus School, and still a popular place to live in New Kensington. Rick and crew take a look at some of the new neighborhood murals (in Squirrel Hill, East Liberty and the Strip) that have been coordinated by the Public Art Program of Pittsburgh’s innovative Sprout Fund. And two proud residents, Maggie Oberst from Observatory Hill and Alan Irvine from Squirrel Hill, take everyone for a walk in their respective neighborhoods.

“We end up in Aliquippa,” said Rick, “at the San Rocco Festival that started in a J&L Steel neighborhood called Plan #11 in 1925. It’s become an annual reminder – with fireworks and what they call a ‘baby doll dance’ -- of the importance of ethnic roots and family and neighborhood traditions.”

“It’s The Neighborhoods” is just the latest program in WQED Multimedia’s Pittsburgh History Series that celebrates our region and some of the factors that make it such a good place to call home.

“It’s The Neighborhoods” was made possible by The Buhl Foundation, with additional funding from National City.

WQED Multimedia, celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2004, provides educational, cultural and informational products and services that enhance and engage the community. It is the parent company of WQED tv13, WQEX – your America’s Store channel, WQED fm89.3, WQEJ fm89.7/Johnstown, a publishing division that includes PITTSBURGH magazine, local and national television and radio productions, and the WQED Education and Community Resource Center.

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