Marielle Segarra

Keystone Crossroads Reporter

Marielle Segarra was WHYY's Keystone Crossroads reporter. She reported for the multi-station partnership on urban policy, crumbling infrastructure and how distressed Pennsylvania cities are bouncing back. As a freelance radio reporter, her stories have also aired on Latino USA, WNYC, WBUR and other NPR member stations.

Before WHYY, Marielle was an editor at CFO, a corporate finance magazine in New York. She’s also a former intern for WBUR in Boston and WRNI in Providence.

Marielle studied nonfiction writing at Brown and graduated in 2010. She grew up in Levittown, New York, home of Billy Joel and the suburb. She prides herself on her ability to make conversation with anyone/anything (including goats).

PennDOT

 

When a construction fire damaged Pittsbugh's Liberty Bridge last month, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation closed it for 24 days to do repairs.

Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

 

By 2050, 70 percent of the world's population will be living in cities, according to aUnited Nations estimate. Mayors could be more influential than ever.

People walking down the street in Allentown.
Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

When Allentown's hockey arena opened in November 2014, business owner Josh Tucker was over the moon.

It was opening night, an Eagles concert, and Tucker stood across the street from the arena, watching thousands of people spill onto the sidewalk from new restaurants and bars.

"It is the biggest happening in 30 years in downtown Allentown," Tucker said. 

Man digging.
Brad Larrison / for NewsWorks

Tommy Joshua was working in the garden when a guy from his neighborhood rode by on a bike and gave him some bad news.

"Some dude, some like arbitrary man," Joshua said, "told me straight up, 'Yo dog, they got a plan to like, take this whole jawn over. You're doing all this in vain.'"

Emma Lee / WHYY

 

Two Trains Running, a play by August Wilson that is about to finish a run at Philadelphia's Arden Theater, takes place in the late 1960s, at a restaurant owned by a black man. The city is planning to seize the restuarant through eminent domain, and he fights to get what he considers a fair price. The characters talk about their struggles with racism, making ends meet, and a changing city.

Last night, during a panel discussion hosted by the theater and Keystone Crossroads, Philadelphia residents said there's a lot about the play they can relate to.

Jessica Kourkounis / Newsworks

 

Concentrated poverty is growing across the country, according to a report from the Brookings Institution.

Since the recession, more people live in neighborhoods where at least 20 percent of residents fall below the poverty line. 

Photo courtesy of David Bellinger

 

It's 1957. Dr. Herbert Needleman is on his way to see a three-year-old patient at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

Needleman is a young doctor, about six feet tall, with brown eyes and dark hair. This is the first case of lead poisoning he's ever seen.

When he shows up, the girl is not in good shape. Her eyelids are drooping. Her pulse is slow. She's not making a sound.

Cities are always in a state of flux. But in one neighborhood in North Philadelphia, the change is happening fast.

On March 19, the city's Public Housing Authority demolished two public housing towers in Sharswood, a neighborhood where poverty and crime rates are double that of the city as a whole. The demolition is part of a 10-year, half-billion dollar plan to transform Sharswood into a "mixed-income community."

Kimberly Paynter / WHYY

 

In Pennsylvania, only 26 percent of children between the ages of one and two are tested for lead. For children under age seven, it's only 14 percent.

That's despite the fact that lead can cause children permanent learning disabilities, behavioral problems, and drops in IQ, scientists say.

Nathaniel Hamilton / Newsworks

 

Think, for a minute, about everything it takes to keep a city running. You need people of course — the mayor, the budget director, bus drivers, teachers, and so many others.

But you also need things like trucks, snow chains, paper, and pencils. Typically, cities buy these products by asking companies what price they're asking for. 

University City District

 

Ah, fresh snowfall. It's magical, isn't it? The whole world is covered in white powder, drivers have to slow down (or stop driving entirely) and life stands still for a brief moment. 

If you live in a city, that moment is especially brief. Before you know it, the snow is packed down with footprints and tire tracks, and it turns gray and even black from the traffic.

Emma Lee / WHYY

 

We've been covering ongoing federal investigations in Allentown and Reading, where prosecutors say officials traded favors for campaign contributions.

Allentown Managing Director Francis X. Dougherty has not been charged with a crime, and it's not clear if he had a role in any alleged pay-to-play schemes.

Nathaniel Hamilton / Newsworks

 

Having a car gives you a lot of freedom; you don't have to wait for a bus or train to arrive, you get to stay warm or cool during extreme temperatures, you save time (unless there's traffic, in which case all bets are off).

But once you get to your destination, you have to find somewhere to put that hunk of metal on wheels.

In some cities, that's a toilsome task. 

Matt Rourke / AP

 

This fall, Boston began offering free two-hour salary negotiation classes for women who work in the city. The $1.5 million program, which will continue for five years, is funded through corporate and foundation dollars.

Ken Lund / Flickr

 

The Lancaster County Planning Commission just came out with a report about how the county has changed over the last decade, as Lancaster Online reports. The county is not meeting the commission's goals for dense urban development.

Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

When police officers decide which blocks to patrol, they usually look at where crime has happened in the past, and they rely on their own hunches. But a growing number of city police departments are now considering something else: the calculations of software programs designed to predict where crimes will happen in the future.

 

After years of planning, "The Waterfront," a $325 million, 1.2 million square-foot planned development on Allentown's Lehigh River, broke ground this week.

Pennsylvania Environmental Council

 

As the industries along urban waterfronts have faded, big cities like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have come up with robust master plans — and significant funding — to connect people with their rivers.

But what can smaller municipalities with fewer resources do to revitalize their waterfronts?

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

 

When Pennsylvania police try to solve a crime using DNA evidence, they have to wait for results from a state database. That can take between nine and 18 months, says Fred Harran, director of public safety for the Bensalem Township Police Department and vice president of the Bucks County Police Chiefs Association.

To speed things up, the 40 police departments in Bucks County have banded together to create a county-wide DNA database that provides results within 30 days.

John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

 

On Tuesday, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced the 24 recipients of its annual "genius" grants. Each year, the foundation gives no-strings-attached funding, currently $625,000 paid out over five years, to "talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction."

Wulf Rohwedder / Keystone Crossroads

 

On the Elbe River in Hamburg, Germany, there's a riverfront district called HafenCity. It's made up of slender pieces of land that are divided by canals and connected by footbridges. The district is lined with modern glass buildings and futuristic-looking public spaces, but also historic red brick warehouses that have green copper roofs and look like little castles.

Like a lot of cities, Philadelphia has tried and failed to lure big developers and megaprojects to turn its decaying waterfront into a destination. Now, the nonprofit that manages the waterfront is doing something different.

It's starting small — and cheap.

Marielle Segarra / WHYY

The German city of Bottrop is known for its coal mine, Prosper-Haniel, which employs 5,300 people and will shut down by 2018.

Bottrop's unemployment rate was eight percent at the end of May 2015, compared to a national average of 4.7 percent. Many of the city's 116,500 residents live in poverty, according to the city. 

Emma Lee / Newsworks

 

At Keystone Crossroads, we write a lot of practical stories on urban design, policy and politics. But today we're indulging our literary side.

We've compiled quotes that remind us of cities in Pennsylvania, and make us think about the big picture.

Man in hammock
Lindsay Lazarski / WHYY

For a long time, Philadelphia's Delaware Riverfront was...underwhelming.

Each winter, the city operated a harbor-side ice skating rink. There were also summer concerts and festivals on the waterfront, bursts of life that would fizzle out as soon as the events ended.

But most of the time, people didn't venture down to the river. For one thing, getting to the waterfront requires finding a place to cross I-95, the 10-lane highway that cuts through the city. 

Lindsay Lazarski/WHYY

At the end of 2011, the city of Allentown had a problem. There was a gaping hole in its fire department.

No, not a literal hole. Forty-three of its firefighters retired at once. Not only did the city lose wisdom and experience. But suddenly, it owed millions of dollars more every year in retirement benefits it couldn't afford.

What drove these city firefighters out of their jobs?

Marielle Segarra/WHYY

This is the second story of our three-part series on the state's bridges.

Twenty-three percent of Pennsylvania's bridges are structurally deficient, and many need to be replaced. But between permitting, design, and construction, building a new bridge takes years.

That's why the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is trying to speed things up.

Lindsay Lazarski/WHYY

This is the first story of our three-part series on the state's bridges.

If you drive in Pennsylvania, you've probably crossed a structurally deficient bridge. Maybe you're driving over one right now.

Keystone Crossroads mapped out all of Pennsylvania's structurally deficient bridges. Check out the interactive map on Keystone Crossroads' website.

Man standing in church being renovated.
Lindsay Lazarski/WHYY

Walk a few blocks in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, or any of Pennsylvania's old cities, and you're bound to see a house of worship. In Old City Philadelphia, these could be churches the founding fathers attended. In other neighborhoods, they could be former ethnic churches that served specific immigrant communities.

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