Wednesday, February 25, 2009

hypocrisy in a government agency?

now, i made the title of this post a little controversial on purpose, because i thought that "parking at gage-eckington site" wouldn't elicit enough eyeballs.

seriously, though, for those who weren't aware, when gage-eckington elementary was closed down last year, the city proposed moving the district department of the environment into the closed building. in addition, there would be a senior center, and the 7th street garden group (now named common good city farm) would be using the space as well.

now, i'm sure that the DDOE needs space to park a few trucks or other vehicles that are necessary to carry equipment to certain places or projects, but you would think that if there was any division of the district's government that would be using mass transit instead of individual cars, it would be the DDOE, right? less pollution and all that.

well, in a letter posted to the bloomingdale listserv this weekend (sorry i'm late on this), deputy mayor neil albert had something to say about that to a local resident. here's an exerpt (emphasis mine):

EMAIL FROM Deputy Mayor Neil Albert
From: Albert, Neil (EOM) []
Sent: Saturday, February 21, 2009 9:00 AM

Dear Jeff,

Thanks for your letter and email. I wanted to provide an update to you on a few matters related to the future of the Gage-Eckington School Site.


3. Currently, we are in a holding pattern as it pertains to the re-location of DDOE to the site. While working through the re-location logistics for the site, it was determined that we were running into some issues related to the availability of parking on-site and functionality of space for the agency. Additionally, we are studying the costs involved with re-configuring the space for agency use to determine how best to proceed. No final decision has been made, but we anticipate that we will have a better idea in approximately four weeks at which time we will share updated information with you.



now, i'm not knocking deputy mayor albert here, but i just wanted to point out that parking was one of the important criteria for the DDOE's relocation here. maybe that's unavoidable, i don't know. it just seems that, from 30,000 feet, this is one agency that should be using as little parking as possible.

please correct me if i'm wrong.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

update on 2nd street ne street trees

thanks to commenter RobA, we learn that the trees that i wrote about here have won something of a repreive. eleanor holmes norton convinced the architect of the capitol to do all that they can to avoid killing the trees while placing security bollards along that street.

bravo, i say! though i question whether the trees will actually survive, it's wonderful to see that it's still possible for some people to sit down, reason, and reach a compromise, instead of blindly following regulations like "we need to have x number of bollards spaced x number of feet apart, everything else be damned!"

here's a quote from the congresswoman:

I admit that I wanted to hug these graceful trees. If the trees do not survive the bollards, there will be time enough to take them down. These trees may die in time, but so do people, and we don't kill them without exhausting all possibilities for life.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

soldiers' home redevelopment not happening (for now)

the washington post has word today that the redevelopment of part of the land on the grounds of the armed forces retirement home has been put on hold due to the weakening economy. this was of special interest to a lot of people in bloomingdale because of the belief that it would lead to an enormous increase of traffic on 1st street nw, when combined with the redevelopment of the mcmillan sand filtration site.

certainly this will lead to discussion that any traffic analysis of the combined projects will need to be reassessed. it'll be interesting to see whether that leads to a delay on the mcmillan project.

Monday, February 16, 2009

nicknames for the area?

with this comment on dcist, a joke was born about how to abbreviate our neighborhood's name so it could conform with the hipster shorthand for other neighborhoods in dc ("admo" for adams morgan or "cohi" for columbia heights, for examples). i really think that "blomi" does a great job of poking fun at this form of linguistic construction.

anyway, in scott roberts' bloomingdale listserv post on saturday, i saw the lastest nickname for bloomingdale—a resident of the neighborhood from the 100 block thomas street nw said, "We are in South East of North West Washington..."

so, as far as northwest DC goes, we are in the southeast part of it. guess the connotation is meant to go along with the thought that "southeast" is often shorthand for the "rough" or even "dangerous" part of DC.

while bloomingdale's crime profile is certainly not as rosy as the palisades or normanstone terrace, i think we live in a pretty un-rough part of the district. i don't mean to call this person from thomas street out, i just thought it would an interesting thought to share.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

new restaurant coming to 12th street in brookland

first saw this reported in the north capitol heartbeat newsletter, but it's a print-only publication (with a circulation of 5,033—pretty exacting, eh?)

kellys' ellis island restaurant, at 12th and quincy in downtown brookland, is being replced by a new location of san antonio bar & grill, a tex-mex restaurant with locations in alexandria and crystal city.

the restaurant was supposed to be open the first week of february, according to the newsletter. since that was last week, can anyone from brookland report if that's the case, or if they're still working on the switch-over?

Monday, February 9, 2009

what's up with the apartment building at 143 rhode island avenue nw?

this beautiful apartment building at 143 rhode island ave nw is partially boarded up and appears to be unoccupied. am i incorrect—are there people actually living here?

looking at the district's tax records, the building is owned by "BARRY HOMES LTD PARTNRSH GR WASHINGTON MUTUAL HOUSING", whose business address is listed as 1419 v street nw. that property is owned by "SAINT PAUL'S CATHOLIC CHURCH", though we know the church at that location as st. augustine's catholic church. turns out, if you read the parish's history, the parishes of saint paul and saint augustine merged in the 1960s, and in the 1970s the saint paul moniker was removed in favor of saint augustine. apparently, that hasn't happened on the level of the tax records.

regardless, this is a gorgeous building, located on the triangle formed by the corner of rhode island avenue and t street. it's a shame the building isn't cared for as well as it should be.

follow-up on the construction at 440 rhode island ave nw

i promised a couple more images of the ongoing construction of an apartment building at 440 rhode island avenue nw. first, here are the permits, stating that it will be a 4-story building with 19 units (not sure of district law, but does the basement count as one of those floors?)

below is a picture of the progress (taken on sunday afternoon) taken from the northwestern corner of 5th and rhode island.

finally, here's a shot of the back of the building, taken in the alley. unfortunately, with the sun setting, i couldn't get a decent photo of the area from the other side. it would have been a better shot, but the glare from the sun precluded that from happening. it would appear that there will be a some space in the back for a dumpster and a few parking spaces.

a post for PoP

the prince of petworth likes to post photos of sculptures he finds in yards and pocket parks around the city, so i thought, in the belief that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, i would have a post of my own in that mold.

above is a sculpture from the front yard of the house at 132 rhode island ave. nw, which is apparently home to the noa gallery. if you do a google search for the term "noa gallery", you turn up a place in groton, massachusetts, but searching for "noa gallery dc" will give you the location here in bloomingdale. does anyone know anything specific about this gallery? i never see it written up in things like the dcist arts agenda.

below is a photo of the plaque next to the front door.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

broken windows theory—it's time for DC to REALLY understand the implications

check out this article from today's edition of the boston globe. police in the massachusetts city of lowell conducted an experiment on the efficacy of the broken windows theory, which postulates that signs of urban decay, from things as simple as leaving piles of trash on the street, all the way up to boarded up buildings along a commercial strip, lead to negative outcomes (especially crime) happening in the affected neighborhoods.

the leadership of new york city police department became early believers in the theory, and many people attribute the drop in crime in that city during the 1990s to adherence to a "zero tolerance" policy that led police to cite offenders for minor crimes. the belief was that cracking down on these minor crimes (like littering and vandalism) would lead to a decrease in major crimes. many believe the policy worked; others believe that it was the end of the crack epidemic that led to the downturn in crime.

now, though, it appears that researchers from harvard and suffolk universities have seen enough data to give credence to the thought that paying attention to the little things can make a community safer in the long run. check out this quote from the article.

"In traditional policing, you went from call to call, and that was it - you're chasing your tail," said Lowell patrol officer Karen Witts on a recent drive past a boarded up house that was once a bullet-pocked trouble spot. Now, she says, there appears to be a solid basis for a policing strategy that preemptively addresses the conditions that promote crime.
the article also notes this, which is one heck of a conclusion:
Cleaning up the physical environment was very effective; misdemeanor arrests less so, and boosting social services had no apparent impact.
i'd really recommend you go read the whole thing, and i'd really hope that our police here in the district are paying attention. i don't want to disparage social services, and i certainly don't want to see police not crack down on misdemeanors, but i really hope this encourages people who are ridiculed for insisting on better trash cleanup, painting over graffiti, and trying to get vacant buildings occupied to keep pushing for what they believe will help their communities.

(hat tip to rob goodspeed for sharing this article)

saturday's mcmillan meeting

a smaller crowd was in attendance at the february 7th mcmillan development meeting than was in attendance at the december meeting. that doesn't mean there were few people there, though. the room was full, and the discussion spirited.

the representatives from the city government and the development groups (pictured above: clint jackson from the DMPED office, aakash thakkar from EYA, deborah crain from the office of planning, and jair lynch) started the presentation by asking everyone to remain civil so this meeting could be productive. i believe they'd seen a lot of the fliers that were being passed around, as well as discussion by opponents about how they were going to do what they could to derail the project as currently envisioned.

after basic presentation and a few questions from the audience, councilman thomas arrived (he had another meeting he was attending earlier) and gave an impassioned speech about moving forward on this project.

this was, bar none, the best speech i've seen the councilman give. he elegantly laid out a few key points:

  • this has been an open process and we need to keep moving forward to keep things from stalling.
  • we can't afford for the surrounding neighborhoods to go another 25 years staring at an empty field surrounded by a rusty fence.
  • those who are spreading falsehoods about the project (multi-story tenement housing a la cabrini-green or the robert taylor homes) need to stop.
once councilman thomas' speech was done, the meeting quickly moved to a question-and-answer session between the attendees and the presenters. the meeting remained mostly civil until the end, when representatives of empower dc, who had been at the previous meeting and were also confrontational then, began to shout down clint jackson for not answering a question to their liking. after some brief posturing by both, the meeting ended, and we left trinity university.

one of the important announcements to come out of the meeting was the imminent creation of a website where information about the project will be available directly from the development team. that website is available here. i was assured that, once fully up and running, everyone will be able to leave comments about the development there and communicate with the team as well.

in my opinion, this will be a great boon to the project. i think a lot of people are concerned about some of the falsehoods they've been hearing, and once more of the information is readily available, people in the surrounding neighborhoods will have some of those fears assuaged. that's not to say that everyone is going to be happy with this project—there are still many who would rather see nothing built there at all—but i believe, from all i saw at this meeting, that we are moving closer to seeing a consensus agreement on the broad strokes of this plan.

Friday, February 6, 2009

reminder—mcmillan community meeting tomorrow (feb. 7th)

here are the important details:
February 7, 2009
10:00am to 12:00pm
Trinity University Social Hall
125 Michigan Avenue NE
if you have questions before the meeting, call vicky chambers (in councilman thomas' office) at (202) 727-8204 or john basile (from eya) (301) 634-8600

Thursday, February 5, 2009

obama motorcade through shaw?

the MPD police cars/trucks/suvs are often deployed to the corners along 16th street to shut the road off so presidential (and other) motorcades can speed up the street (and keep the rest of us citizens from being able to go where we need to reasonably).

just before 9 this morning, while biking in, i noticed police deployed along rhode island avenue up to the area around seaton elementary and shaw/patterson middle school. does that mean they might be getting a presidential visit this morning? goess we'll have to wait and see.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

bye-bye dead tree

the tree blocking part of your view of downtown bloomingdale's public restroom has been cut down. it was dead for at least a year, and was looking pretty weak before that. hope the city puts something appropriate there soon, a tree that will grow up to be a decent shade tree, not something small and decorative.

progress at 440 rhode island avenue nw

i've written about this lot here, here, and here. check out the progress on the new apartment building going up there. i'll have better shots by this weekend, but thought people might be interested in seeing actual building progress in this down economy. i like the fancier-than-normal cinder block going up on the side of the building.

this photo was taken looking towards the corner of new jersey and rhode island.

here's that decorative block.

Monday, February 2, 2009

feds—as usual—are doing something stupid

(i know this is from well outside of our neighborhood, but i just had to make a comment.)

i was just reading this month's hill rag, and i saw in the ANC reports section (see page 49) that the architect of the capitol has let the local citizens know that elm trees, well on their way to maturity, are to be cut down. and for what reason—everyone say it with me now—security.

yeah, apparently "federal mandate" has said that our soon-to-be state-tree, the security bollard, must be planted all along second street NE in 4 foot increments. the trees that are already there gotta go! can't have mature trees in this town, we gotta have security.

now, i'm no dummy. i realize that, even with a new sheriff in town, the bureaucrats who run things are not going to change the way they do business. we gotta secure the living crap outta things, common sense be damned. honestly, the maturing trees that are there would do a pretty good job of impersonating bollards if what you're looking for is keeping cars, trucks, etc., from driving into the side of a building. if you must have a denser field of bollards, add them to the spaces between the trees already there.

now, i know that someone with a degree in bollardology is going to tell me that just won't cut it. baloney. sure, a truck moving at 70 mph would probably be able to drive through such a barrier, but how in the hell could anything build up the speed necessary to do such a thing in a narrow space like second street?

look, AOC, get creative. find a way to make this work without pulling out the trees. we can see you've already done this once down the block. check out the image below:

View Larger Map

if you look at the street level image, you can see there are a few twiggy saplings on the east side of second street alongside the supreme court building. but, in the satellite imagery (taken from 2002), you can see that there were much larger trees there—ripped out in the name of security, the religion that we've been told to worship at the altar of during the last seven years.

you have a chance to not just follow the book to the letter, AOC. get creative. we can have our security cake and eat it too. don't take down maturing elms out of fear.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

neighbors-only meeting for the mcmillan project

i'm passing along the information from scott roberts' bloomingdale listserv:

Neighbors-Only Meeting on McMillan Megasite

Mehdi Mansouri, Tony Norman and Don McKinnon would like to invite any interested neighbors to an informal meeting on Tuesday, February 3rd at the home of Don McKinnon:

2429 First Street, NW (corner of First and Channing)

This meeting is for neighbors only. The purpose of the meeting is to get organized for the developer's two-hour meeting on Saturday the 7th.

We are very interested in folks that are familiar with: property deeds, Federal and DC environmental laws and regulations, Federal and DC transportation laws and regulations, and basics of urban design.

We are also very interested in anyone familiar with the Zoning Commission, and especially anyone who knows anyone on the Zoning Commission. We are also interested in recruiting some folks to knock on doors for an hour or two.

Most importantly, we want to be able to have a productive discussion without the supervision of the Bethesda-based development team.

Again, neighbors only. Hope you can make it. We will have light refreshments. BYOB.

Space is limited. Please rsvp as soon as possible.

Please rsvp to Don McKinnon at don @