Tony Lundy sits on one of the three chrome stools in the Hocky Brothers auto parts store on Braddock Avenue, waiting to find out how much it will cost to repair his car.
Dressed in work clothes from the factory he works in 15 miles down the river in Pittsburgh, 61-year-old Braddock was called home for much of his life. Lundy fondly remembers growing up as one of 13 children surrounded by this once vibrant community.
“The town was the place to be,” Lundy said. “Braddock Avenue had four or five businesses on every block on both sides of the street, every kind of business you could think of — shoe stores, dress shops, men’s stores, restaurants, beauty shops, barber shops, a grocery store. Now look at it, there is nothing.”
He points down the desolate street, devoid of the crowds that he says once walked shoulder to shoulder to get from one place to the other.
“Oh, and the streetlights, they just lit the place up like there was going to be a parade,” he recalled of Braddock in the ’60s and ’70s.
Once a bustling borough of 20,000 – where a resident never had to leave the city limits to eat, be entertained or go to church or school – Braddock is now home to less than 1,700 residents . Most businesses, places of worship and educational institutions have disappeared. Even the heart of the community, the beloved Braddock Hospital, was flattened.
John Fetterman, the Democratic candidate for the US Senate, began his political career here when he ran for mayor in 2005 and won by 149 votes – just one more than his rival. He stayed on for two more terms until he stepped down in 2019 to become the state’s lieutenant governor and deputy governor. Thomas Wolf.
Fetterman now takes on Republican candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz, betting that his image as Everyman who saved this small town will take him all the way to Washington in what is considered a tie.
Fetterman boasted that “as Mayor of Braddock and Chief Law Enforcement Officer, I have worked with the Chief Constable, our officers and the community to tackle violent crime”. But data between 2005 and 2018 shows that violent crime did indeed increase under his leadership.
He also vowed to ‘make sure our public schools have the funding they need’, though he hasn’t paid his own school district taxes for years to fund one of the poorest districts. of State. Additionally, Braddock’s population suffered a steep decline under its town hall, dropping 25.9% between 2000 and 2010 and a further 20.3% between 2010 and 2020.
Raised in York, Pennsylvania, Fetterman was born to teenage parents. His father became a very successful partner in an insurance company. Twenty-two years ago, fresh out of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, Fetterman came to Braddock to start a program for young people.
Now 53, with a 6-foot-8 linebacker’s physique, shaved head, goatee, tattoos and a fondness for hoodies and cargo shorts, Fetterman has crafted a progressive hero legend for himself that locals say is far from the truth.
Indeed, the hopeful story of a young mayor saving this small Rust Belt town is full of holes. And no one is more disappointed than those who live here.
Lundy laughs when he hears Fetterman’s stories.