Searching for Dream Street - New Kensington
Achille (Kelly) Gasbarra, sits on his front porch in New Kensington, Pa. Gasbarra, who recently celebrated his 75th wedding anniversary with his wife, was drafted into the Navy as a cook in 1943. He claims to be “the only guy in the Navy that never saw water,” sinces he worked in Nevada at a naval ammunition depot.
New Kensington, a small city located twenty miles northeast of Pittsburgh, is known as the “Birthplace of the Aluminum Industry” since it was where the Aluminum Company of America’s (ALCOA) first facility was built in 1891. ALCOA presence drove the area’s economy for over sixty years.
When ALCOA closed its New Kensington operations in 1971, 3,300 jobs were lost – a fifth of the local population. As a result, property values rapidly declined and many homeowners became underwater on their mortgages.
The population shrank nearly in half, from 26,000 in the early 1970s to about 14,000. Businesses moved to malls or suburban commercial strips and the buildings that previously housed them fell into decay and the city's tax revenues plummeted.