Sunday, February 27, 2011

Open Houses in and around Bloomingdale on 02/27/2011

Mortgage interest rates have been steadily rising but this past week they dipped back under 5%. As the economy improves, it is expected that the cost of borrowing mortgage money will rise again, so if you've been sitting on the fence about buying, maybe it's a good time to start checking out open houses. There are several going on around the neighborhood today. The list can be found here. A map of the same information can be found here. Directions are included on the map version. To see info about each of the listings, scroll over the push pins on the map.

The house pictured above is my new listing in Truxton Circle at 67 N St NW. Priced at $499,000 (renovated, has inlaw suite, and with garage parking), you can see more pics and details by opening the list link above. It is open 1-4pm.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

texas day of independence. next saturday, march 5th. Big Bear Cafe

Neighborhood BBQ this weekend at the BBC!

March 5th, 1836 was the last day the Texpatriots held the Alamo.
It was a solemn but important day.

Help celebrate the Texas Day of Independence at the Big Bear Cafe!

-- Smoked Brisket tacos.
-- Borrachos w/chow-chow (spicy beans with cabbage relish)
-- Chilaquiles!

Big Bear Cafe
Saturday, March 5th

Big Bear Cafe
(1st and R, NW)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

New Condo for Bloomingdale! posted details about Flatiron, the upcoming condo conversion at 143 Rhode Island Ave NW, which can be seen here. The building has been vacant for a number of years, so it is great to see it put back into productive use!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

seeking a notary public in the neighborhood

See this request from an Eckington resident:

Are there any notaries public in the neighborhood? I need one to work with from time to time in my legal practice.

agenda for this Monday's Bloomingdale Civic Association meeting

See this announcement & meeting agenda from Teri Janine Quinn:

Please note that due to the holiday, the monthly Bloomingdale Civic Association meeting is being held on the fourth Monday this month. In my last update to the community, I indicated that we expected a representative from Metro to attend the February meeting to discuss the removal of the bus stop at 2nd & Rhode Island Avenue, NW. Metro initially decided to temporarily reestablish the bus stop. Metro has since decided to return the bus stop permanently. As such, there will not be anyone from Metro in attendance to discuss the removal of the bus stop.

Bloomingdale Civic Association
February Monthly Meeting
Monday, February 28, 2011 - 7:00pm
St. George`s Episcopal Church
2nd and U Streets, NW


I. ANC/Bloomingdale Grant – Update
II. Bloomingdale Beautification – Update
III. Block Captain Program
IV. PEPCO - Smart Meter Presentation
V. Fire House Liquor License Pre-Application Presentation
VI. Updates from Bloomingdale Representatives

A. Executive Office of the Mayor
B. Office of Councilman Harry Thomas, Jr.
C. ANC Bloomingdale Commissioners

VII. Community Announcements

Teri Janine Quinn
President, Bloomingdale Civic Association

lost set of keys last night around 1st & Randolph NW

See this late evening 02/21/2011 message:
I lost a precious set of keys tonight while walking the dog and am wondering if you could post this in case anyone picked them up? There are three or four keys (including a car key) plus a fob on a ring, with a an old needlepoint keychain that has my grandmother`s initials (JH) on it in black and white. I can describe the keys further if needed. I lost them within a 1-2 block radius of the corner of First and Randolph NW. Thanks so much, Emily. 202. 730. 5004. Emharv @

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Open Houses in and around Bloomingdale on 02/20/2011

There are several open houses scheduled in and around the neighborhood for Sunday. The list can be found here. The same information can be seen with directions in a map format here. To see property details, scroll over the push pins on the map.

Local Wifi Network - Is it worth it?

From today's Washington City Paper about Bloomingdale/Eckington/Bates local community wifi:

Housing Complex

Why Can’t We Put a Wireless Cloud Over the Whole City?

Bloomingdale's mesh architecture.

In my column this week, we looked at one small open mesh experiment, in which routers placed every few houses repeat a signal strong enough to pull a wireless cloud over the immediate neighborhood. It’s a lot more efficient than everyone buying their own Comcast subscription, and especially promising for poorer communities—where, as a report out from the Investigative Reporting Workshop shows, broadband access is actually more expensive.

As Hugh Youngblood explained how the Bloomingdale Bridge worked, I couldn’t help but wonder: Why don’t we put a cloud over the entire city, or at least the densest residential and commercial areas? The fact that I can’t get free wireless on a streetcorner in downtown Washington D.C. is absurd.

Such networks aren’t unheard of. Ad-hoc, user-owned versions have sprung up in Germany, Austria, and Athens, Greece. In Lawrence, Kansas, a non-profit group charges vastly reduced rates to subscribers, and provides free service in low-income areas. Urbana, Illinois has free wireless in commercial areas.

But community wireless projects in America haven’t taken off to the same extent as they have in Europe, in part because of pushback from the big carriers. (Although, as Youngblood pointed out, resistance is sort of silly: Expanding wireless to underserved areas is a good thing for cable companies, since some new users will inevitably want the stronger connection they can only get from “fiber to the curb.” In that way, free or low-cost wireless is like a gateway drug. “We get people addicted,” as he puts it. “If you want the strong stuff, go get it from the man.”)

In D.C. in particular, the grassroots digital justice movement isn’t even as active as it has been in places like Detroit—but it wasn’t always that way. Shireen Mitchell, now an independent social media and technology consultant, remembers that there was a thriving group of nonprofits and organizers in the early 2000s who established community technology centers for training teens, and had started working on a wireless project in the U Street area. But in the mid-Bush administration, federal funding for those projects dried up.

“It had a huge community. A huge community. And once that funding started getting pulled, a lot of the institutional knowledge left,” Mitchell says. “People gotta get paid."

So now, there’s a Digital Divide facebook group. There’s One Computer One Child, which works on distributing refurbished computers, as well as training. And there’s OCTO, which doesn’t have any money to support these kinds of things. So a lapse in funding might have taken the air out a nascent movement, and D.C. is now behind where it otherwise might have been because of it.

Friday, February 18, 2011

North Capitol Street on National Marathon race route, as in prior years

See this message from Lonna Hooks, Executive Director, North Capitol Main Street:

From: Diane Thomas []
Sent: Thursday, February 17, 2011 12:44 PM
To: Lonna Hooks
Subject: National Marathon - March 26, 2011

Good afternoon. I worked in previous years with the past NCMS Director and wanted to connect with you regarding plans for the 6th Annual National Marathon, Half Marathon and Team Relay scheduled to run Saturday, March 26, 2011. This race is DC`s only Marathon and is run entirely in DC. The 26.2 mile course runs through 6 of our city`s 8 wards.. Specifically, the course (at mile 9) will bring 15,000 runners down North Capitol Street (southbound side only) from Bryant Street, NW to K Street, NE. The street closure time is 7:25am – 9:25am. We have a water station at Bryant Street NW and a Community Motivation Station at R Street, NW. I have attached the course map and street closure table for you review. The economic impact study of the 2010 race showed $1.1 million dollars of direct spending into DC`s General Fund. We hope, with an expanded field of runners, that impact will be even higher in 2011.

I would be happy to speak by phone if you have any questions or concerns. You can also find event

Thank you!

Diane Romo Thomas
Director, Community Relations
Greater Washington Sports Alliance
2300 14th Street, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20009
(202) 407- 8560 F-(202) 407- 8556

Thursday, February 17, 2011

lost Pomeranian dog near Florida & 1st St NW

See this 2/17/2011 message from a Quincy Place NW:

I live at First and Florida NW and this morning on my way to the bus I saw a little Pomeranian dog loose on the South side of Florida. I tried to come near it but he was quite afraid and ran down an ally before the liquor store on First and Florida. I just want to make sure that the neighborhood knows where this dog is before something happens to it.

painted streetlight poles are nice, but wiring at the base is still exposed

From a 1st Street NW resident:

It is great they are painting neighborhood streetlights but in front of my house they painted a rusting lamp stand that has had the wiring open to the elements for a decade. So, the risk of someone -- likely a kid playing on the sidewalk -- remains exactly the same, although the child will now be shocked by a newly gray streetlight.

Q: "What DCPS schools do you like or don't like?"

From Bloomingdale resident Tim Breen:

Neighbors: With the Feb. 28 deadline fast approaching for entering the DCPS lottery, I wonder what any parents can tell me about the schools they like (from first-hand experience or just reputation) and/or don't like.

We'd love to start our daughter off as local as possible (Emery) -- a 5-minute walk for us, "us" being proud products of public schools as well -- but are hesitant to commit. Seems like there was a flurry of interest (with perhaps a parents group forming and at least touring the school a year or two ago?), but we haven't heard anything lately. Did the enthusiasm die off? For a reason? Our daughter will be a young 3 come September, and at that age frankly we're not worried at all about test scores and the "usual" markers, but are more concerned that she be playing and interacting with good (I know, a squishy term) kids and teachers.

Beyond Emery, what are the schools people like (let's limit this to the free DCPS schools)? It's a delusional fantasy to think we might get into Peabody or the Watkins Montessori program, right?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Capitol Food Mart at 1634 North Capitol St NW applying for an alcohol license

Some unknown person -- MTN1414 at -- who might live in the neighborhood asked to have this message posted:

I went to the Capitol Food Mart at 1634 North Capitol NW this weekend and saw that they have applied for a license to sell alcohol. It seems like there is little upside to another establishment selling alcohol within a block or two of the Florida Avenue intersection. Plus, unlike the liquor stores, the food mart would be able to sell alcohol on Sundays - likely bringing the people who loiter at the Florida Avenue intersection north. Given the recent shootings in the area, I can think of better ways to expand business in the neighborhood. Just wanted to give a heads up and see if others have concerns - I know there are ways to protest the license application. I believe there is a hearing on March 24.

tearing up the bricks on the NW corner of Florida & North Capitol St - what's up ?

From a resident of R Street NW:

Does anyone in the neighborhood have any idea what is going on at the bus stop / triangle park at the intersection of North Capitol and Florida NW?

There is a crew with heavy equipment tearing up the bricks.

fixing pocket doors

See this post from a Flagler Place NW resident:

I wondered if you could post a simple request on your blog asking for a referral for someone who might know a bit about the beautiful pocket doors some of us have in our homes. Ours is in its pocket and off its hinge I think or something. I would love for it to be in use but have no idea who would have the knowledge to fix such a thing. Any suggestions?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

neighbor witnesses car break-in on Quincy Pl NW on Sunday, 2-13-2011

See this 02/15/2011 message from a Quincy Place NW:

On Sunday afternoon [02/13/2011] around 2pm, I watched a car break-in on Quincy Place NW. I was looking out my window when I noticed a skinny African-American guy hanging around a Honda Element with out-of-state plates. He was lurking, but I thought it **could** be his car. I kept watching. Low and behold, he took a screw-driver and popped the back window out and then broke through the glass with his elbow. He flew into the car like superman and rummaged around for 5 minutes. It was bizarre because he was in no rush and there were at least 3-4 people around -- getting into their cars, walking up/down the street, taking groceries inside, etc. There was even a guy fixing up the car parked immediately in front! Nobody seemed to notice. I was stunned and called 911 as soon as I recognized what was happening. This kind of petty theft enrages me, so I contemplated going outside to approach him -- I had plenty of time. But given recent events in our neighborhood, I decided against it. The police came 15 minutes later, but the guy had already casually walked down Quincy Place NW towards North Capitol Street. He was even laughing as he played with his new accessories. Turns out he got a cell phone and iPod that the owner left in her car.

eager to unload big tree-trimming saw

See this message from a Randolph Place NW resident:

Does anyone want, or know where I can unload, one of those big tree-trimming saws (looks like a medieval weapon of war -- loooong pole with a curved saw blade on one end)? A city crew or contractor left one in my front yard a while back and I have no use for it whatsoever.

seeking handyman referrals

See this message from a resident of R Street NW:

Periodically I have seen postings on here where local residents have highly recommended different handymen they have used. I was able to find a few of those people referenced in past e-mails, but upon calling the numbers listed for them, literally each number has been disconnected (and that has been the case for 3 different handymen listed on here!). I was wondering if you could please include a statement in an upcoming e-mail asking residents for recommendations for good, reliable handymen.

I need some minor door frame woodwork completed as well as some basic electrical work completed.

seeking referrals for a housecleaning person or service

From an Eckington resident:

I`m looking for a reliable cleaning woman or cleaning service to clean my house twice a month, ideally someone who already does work in the neighborhood. Any recommendations?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Open Houses in and around Bloomingdale on 02/13/2011

Looks like it's going to be a nice day to check out the open houses. You can see the list here. The same information can also be found on the map here, which includes directions. To see details of each property on the map, scroll over the push pins.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

abandoned scooter found in alley between Bryant & Channing NW

See this 2/12/2011 message from a Bryant Street NW resident:

On Thursday night a stolen scooter was abandoned in the back alley between the unit block of Bryant NW and Channing NW. We are hoping that the owner or someone who knows the owner is on the list serve and will see this. It is a blue Road Scooter brand LB50QT-6 50cc scooter that was clearly hot-wired and dumped. There were no license plates on it. It was laying on its side and leaking gas. We called the police who send over a crime scene unit to finger print it and pick it up. If any readers own or know the owner of the scooter, we hope they get it back. The police have it.

March for Peace today, 2/12/2011 at North Capitol & Florida intersection

I received this brief March for Peace announcement from both Bates Area Civic Association President Geovani Bonilla and ANC 5C02 Commissioner Sylvia Pinkney yesterday.



DATE: Saturday, February 12, 2011
TIME: 3:00 pm
(Intersection of Florida Avenue and North Capitol Street, NW)

Tony Harris Job Developer/Vocational Development Specialist CSOSA

This saturday march 12th, 2011. We would like to invite all members of the neighborhood to come together as a show of solidarity. We would like to express our concern for the recent acts of senseless violence. An as residents show that we will no longer tolerate these acts in our neighborhood. We ask that you help us get the word out.
I emailed one of the promoters of this March for Peace event, lifelong Truxton Circle resident Darryl Logan, for more info.

Here is additional info: ``This march was conceived by Tony Lewis Jr. and I as concerned residents in the community. Although that we work for our respected agencies dealing with at risk youth and ex offender re-entry. This was something that as a community we should come together an do.``

Thursday, February 10, 2011

car alarm going off early in the morning

See this message from a 1st Street NW resident:

I live on 1st St. NW between Randolph and S NW. For the past two or three weeks, someone`s car alarm (on 1st St., I think) has regularly been going off as early as 7 a.m. (including the weekends) and is allowed to continue for minute-long stretches of time. It`s immensely disruptive and annoying, as you can imagine.

I don`t want to be accusatory or shame a fellow neighbor; I just want the car alarm to stop.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

man taking photos in the alley

See this message from a V Street NW resident:

This afternoon I notice a Black man about 6'2" 200 lbs with black pants, black jacket with grey hood taking pictures down the alleyway from 100 block V Street NW entrance to U Street entrance. He was not wearing a fluorescent vest, as city employees wear. When he noticed I was watching him, he stopped taking pictures and left. Not sure that it means anything, but thought I should at least let someone know.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

a neighbor responds: "I am saddened by our community's rejection of the LAYC/YB proposal"

See this message from a resident of S Street NW:

Dear Neighbors,

I am deeply saddened by our community`s rejection of the LAYC/YouthBuild proposal for Cook School and can no longer remain quiet.

I moved to this neighborhood 5 years ago because of the diversity and the location. I stayed and love living here because of our warm and welcoming neighbors. I feel at home here in a way I never experienced before. I am part of this community and honored to be so.

I fear that the very core of what I love about this neighborhood is in jeopardy. I love that this is a neighborhood where people can feel welcomed and at home regardless of race or class. That people are able to be themselves here and enjoy living beside people that are different from them. That we all are neighbors and that we treat each other with respect.

For me this welcome extends to our neighbors that are only here during the day. The people who come here to eat meals at S.O.M.E. and have no other place to call home are also my neighbors. These folks need a welcoming place to call home even more than I did. I feel that the homeless are often targets of attack especially when talking about crime reduction and ``cleaning-up`` the neighborhood. These conversations are important, but I hope they can happen in a context of respect. We cannot improve this neighborhood on the backs of the most vulnerable. It`s not just their dignity that is at stake, it`s our identity as a welcoming, diverse community.

Similarly, I feel that our response to LAYC/YouthBuild proposal for Cook School was narrow minded and exclusive. We had the opportunity to welcome families and youth who need a home and we turned our backs on them. I love this neighborhood because of how welcoming we are, but these recent events make me wonder who we welcome. Do I only think we`re a welcoming neighborhood because I am privileged?

I hope to work with you all in fostering the diversity and generosity that makes our neighborhood so great.

Monday, February 07, 2011

? LAYC/YB proposal for the JF Cook School now kaputt ... ?

I attended tonight's Eckington Civic Association meeting at the Harry Thomas Recreation Center.

ANC 5C02 Commissioner Sylvia Pinkney reported that the legislation to allow the Latin American Youth Council/Youth Build Public Charter School for the vacant J.F. Cook School on the unit block of P Street NW expired today.

She said that the proposal is now dead.

Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr., who also attended the Eckington Civic Association meeting, indicated that the major obstacle from the community to the proposal was the Section 8 housing component -- and that the LAYC/YB was not able to negotiate away the housing component of the project, since that's where the bulk of the project funding was coming from.

It would be helpful to obtain confirmation and clarification, since I probably just botched the fact set here.

I would imagine that someone from the LAYC/YB team will provide a statement of some sort.

Tuesday morning update: No update posted at the Bates Area Civic Association blog.

chirp, chirp ?

Sunday, February 06, 2011

seeking leftover tiles, etc. for Bloomingdale house renovation

See this message from a Bloomingdale resident:

Hi, we are renovating a house in Bloomingdale. If you have any leftover tiles or other item you don`t need and think would be useful for us and would like to sell, please let us know.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Open Houses scheduled in and around Bloomingdale for 2/6/2011

Looking to check out some places for sale in or near Bloomingdale? The list of open houses can be seen here. The same information can be seen in a map format including directions here. To see information about specific listings, scroll over the push pins on the map.

seeking parking for rent around 1st & Rhode Island Avenue NW

See this request from a resident near 1st & Rhode Island Avenue NW:

I'm looking for someone who has parking for rent around Rhode Island and 1st NW.

Friday, February 04, 2011

North Capitol Main Street Feb 2011 board meeting & committee meetings

See this message from North Capitol Main Street Executive Director and Bates area resident Lonna Hooks:

North Capitol Main Street February 2011 Board Meeting & Committee Meetings

NCMS has gotten off to a fabulous start this year so let`s keep the ball rolling by joining us for the upcoming board and committee meetings.

We have lots to discuss and we would love to see you there!

Lonna Hooks
Executive Director, NCMS, Inc.

Board Meeting
When: February 15, 2011
Where: NCMS Office
1703 North Capitol St, NE
Time: 7:00pm

Committee Meetings

Economic Restructuring & Design
When: February 9, 2011
Where: NCMS Office, 1703 North Capitol St, NE
Time: 7:00pm

Organization & Promotion
When: February 16, 2011
Where: NCMS Office, 1703 North Capitol St, NE
Time: 7:00pm

Save the Date!

Upcoming Events

Council Member Harry Thomas' Ward 5 Economic Summit
When: March 12, 2011
Where: Gallaudet University
Time: 9:00am - Registration
More details to follow on the $5 billion development explosion coming to Ward 5!

NCMS Annual Meeting & Report Presentation
When: April 2, 2011
Where: Rustik Tavern
Time: 9:00am - 10:30am

Join our mailing list:

dog owners: please keep your dogs on leashes

See this message from an Adams Street NW resident:

This is a reminder to neighborhood dog owners to please leash your dogs when using neighborhood sidewalks. This is for the safety of your dog(s), dog owners, other dogs in the neighborhood, and for all residents. I am a dog owner and know the joy of having a well-behaved dog that responds well to verbal commands, but I also know that not everyone is comfortable with dogs, particularly when they are not restrained in any manner by their owners. Also, please note that the District of Columbia has a leash law and you are legally required to leash your pet. Again, please be considerate of others and leash your dogs on neighborhood sidewalks and streets.

Reading Series at the Big Bear Cafe - Saturday 6-9pm

hope to see you there!

seeking someone who does concrete work on steps

From a Bloomingdale resident:

I would like to see if anyone in the community has any recommendations for someone who does concrete! I would like to get some work done on my steps.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Housing Complex's analysis of & solutions for the Florida & North Capitol intersection

See Lydia DePilllis' Housing Complex post from earlier this morning.

The post has a map image, so you may wish to click on the blog link to take a look at it.

You might wish to clidk on the link below in order to read the long list of follow-up comments.

Florida Panhandle: Does the Layout at Florida Avenue and North Capitol Street Cause Crime?

Posted by Lydia DePillis on Feb. 3, 2011 at 7:57 am


The lay of the land. (Brooke Hatfield)

Just after 11 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 18, Bill Mitchell was walking home from the New York Avenue-Florida Avenue-Gallaudet University Metrorail station. He hopped over busy Florida Avenue to a little triangle of land where a woman had been approached by a man on a mountain bike. According to the woman, the man on the bike asked her for sex. When she declined, he went up to Mitchell at the bus stop and asked him for money. The woman told him to lay off, and as the two got into an argument, Mitchell jumped on the man`s back.

Bad decision.

``This is what I been waiting for,`` the man said, as the police report tells it. He pulled out a gun and fired two shots at Mitchell, who died in a hospital two hours later.

What followed was the kind of outpouring of shock and outrage usually generated by the killing of community-minded young white people like Mitchell. There was a vigil, an emergency public safety meeting, a walk-through of the neighborhood with Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr., Mayor Vince Gray, Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier—one of several several similar visits since she was appointed—and a handful of other agency directors. Calls for more police on the corner were issued.

But this time, it`s not just a matter of having more cops come through and bang heads. Neighbors think the physical shape of the immediate area and the buildings nearby might have helped cause the crime.

Here`s the lay of the land: Florida Avenue cuts across the busy six lanes of North Capitol Street in a chaotic basket of stoplights and signals. There`s a bus stop right next to a liquor store on the southwest corner, and another across the street on the traffic island, which allows sauced loiterers to claim they`re waiting for the bus when police come by to move them along. A few blocks away, So Others Might Eat feeds two meals a day to more than 400 homeless people at its headquarters on O Street NW. There`s an outpatient substance abuse treatment center a few blocks south on First Street NE, a medical clinic for the homeless up on Lincoln Road, and a needle exchange van that occasionally sits on Florida Avenue.

Tom Usselman, who`s lived in the neighborhood for nine years and serves on the board of North Capitol Main Street, says he would never wait for a bus at the intersection, which he sees as a maelstrom of disorderly activity.

``We come in, we hit the meth clinic, we grab breakfast over at SOME, we sell our methadone to drug users, and then they don`t need to purchase as much cocaine or whatever it is they`re on—because they`ve got the methadone, it was just a big feeding circle,`` he says, sitting at a folding table in NCMS` storefront office. ``The police have to be extra vigilant to know who is where and what they`re doing. There`s so much activity that it allows the drug dealers and the other guys that are doing bad things to slide under the radar, as long as they keep below that noise.``

Lonna Hooks, NCMS` executive director, thinks things have gotten worse recently. ``The situation is escalating,`` she says, of street harassment and panhandling. ``There is a large amount of people who are clearly not residents, and they have become extremely aggressive.``

Except crime isn`t escalating, at least not the kind that shows up in the city`s CapStat system. The last three years show no consistent trend of incidents taking place within a quarter-mile radius around the intersection (and the average crime rate is actually lower than the same radius around M Street NW and Wisconsin Avenue in Georgetown). Plus, there are fewer social services in the neighborhood than there used to be—at least one meth clinic has relocated, and police say the needle exchange truck rarely comes by anymore.

To understand Usselman`s perspective, I spent quite a bit of time ``waiting for a bus`` at the intersection. It`s a fairly affable atmosphere; people stand around, a little aimlessly, chatting about getting off drugs, getting out of jail. The line for cigarettes and singles inside the liquor store is polite. The most uncomfortable thing was having to stand the whole time: The spiked treeboxes meant to keep homeless people from sitting on them make the little traffic island inhospitable to everyone. At no point did I feel threatened, but I did notice that people who looked like me hustled past quickly, as if the intersection were made out of quicksand.

After a while it occurred to me: This isn`t so much about crime, as it is about the perception of crime. What if more people had been on that traffic island when Mitchell was killed? Would the gunman have been so willing to shoot and run?

The problems at Florida Avenue and North Capitol Street go back long before the killing of Bill Mitchell, or even the demographic changes now sweeping the neighborhood. They began in 1947, when the city demolished Truxton Circle and plowed the streets right on through, creating an open sore in the street grid and disrupting the protected feeling that you get from having properties ringing an interior space.

Though some businesses have clung to the street, like crustaceans in a jetstream, not much can really bloom in such a harsh environment. Saeed Momenian has owned a sports store on the corner for 21 years, and says crime is now pretty low—but he`s lost his lower-income clientele, and is having difficulty attracting the newer, wealthier residents who are afraid to walk by the shop.

The school of crime prevention that focuses on environmental design as opposed to police suppression is by now fairly well established. Its principles are basic: You need good visibility from many angles, which requires excellent lighting and low shrubbery. You need to make sure the neighborhood seems cared for, by keeping it clean and well-painted. But most importantly, says the National Institute for Crime Prevention`s Art Hushen, you need to get people to take ownership of their spaces and watch over each other—homeless people or not.

``When you rehabilitate the neighborhood, the offender can no longer survive,`` Hushen says. ``The more social interaction you have amongst people, the less opportunity for crime you have, because people are responsible for each other.``

This is just as true for places like the pocket park on Florida Avenue and 1st Street NW, which has long been known as a drug-infested homeless hangout. It`s getting a $1.4 million facelift, but Bates Area Civic Association President Geovani Bonilla knows it`ll still require a willingness on the part of the community to spend time there. ``If we as a community don`t do events and coordinate things, then we`ll never be able to take that park back,`` he says.

Neighbors are right to focus on improving the area`s cleanliness and function. Narrowing North Capitol Street and turning the intersection back into a circle might do the most to make the space usable again, but mustering the political will is likely too big a lift. Still, there are more realistic options: As the Urban Land Institute recommended in a 2009 study, the traffic island should be merged back into the northwest corner—which is empty and fenced-off, waiting for a stalled condo development—to create a real public plaza, while southbound cars take a wider turn right onto Florida. Public restrooms would give people a place to relieve themselves other than the sidewalk, and perhaps there should be an activity center for homeless people to spend time productively instead of on the street. Vacant properties nearby must be put into productive use—like the decaying Slater, Cook, and Langston schools on P Street, where neighbors have resisted transitional housing for young people.

Other design changes, like moving bus stops to make it easier for cops to crack down on loiterers, just seem like a way of pushing out people who have nowhere else to go. That might make residents feel more comfortable using the space, but the more important step is for them to stop being afraid in the first place. At one point in my loitering, a guy—not evidently homeless—offered me a piece of his pizza from Subway, which I declined. He regarded me for a second. ``Not all black people are bad, you know,`` he said, seemingly concerned about what I might make of the cluster of vagrants, before rushing off to catch a bus.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

"provide input to the Public Charter School Board about LAYC"

See this message from a Bloomingdale resident:

The Public Charter School Board (PCSB) has just announced that it has received 19 applications for new charter schools, to open in the fall of 2012. Experience suggests that no more than a handful will actually receive their charters. LAYC is, of course, one of the groups which has submitted an application for a charter. This information is available on the PCSB's website.

I can't help but notice two errors of omission in the executive summary. The first is that while the group touts its success serving families in Ward 1 and claims its intended future location is Ward 1, it fails to mention that they're actively trying to acquire a facility not in Ward 1, but in Ward 5. The second, and more egregious omission is the failure to mention - anywhere in the two page (singled-spaced, no less) summary - that the program includes over two dozen units of subsidized housing. (Needless to say, it also fails to mention the unified community opposition to the aforementioned subsidized housing.)

Fortunately, the PCSB charter review process includes the opportunity for the community to provide input. From the PCSB's announcement:

During the next seven weeks, each applicant will receive a technical review, and have an interview of the founding groups and proposed principals. Public hearings are scheduled for March 21st and March 22nd to allow applicants to present their proposals to the Board and the public, and to solicit input from the community. The PCSB will make decisions to approve or deny the applications during its April 25th monthly meeting. The executive summary of each application and more details about the process are available on the Board’s website.

I think it's worthwhile for the community to follow the PCSB's calendar and prepare to attend the public hearings scheduled for mid-late March.

LAYC never bothered to solicit our input, fortunately the Public Charter School Board is planning to do just that.

You may read the announcement here:

You may see a list of charter applications and a link to their summaries here:

You may download LAYC's summary here:

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

question as a Bloomingdale resident in support of the wishes of the residents of Shaw/Bates/Truxton Circle neighborhood (and community as a whole)

See this comment from a Bloomingdale resident:

Would the answer to the problem in a community of too many liquor stores be to take an abandoned building in the area, build a shiny new liquor store, provide on-site security and dedicate a ``space`` for an arts use somewhere in the liquor store?

It`s a rhetorical question and ridiculous on its face as a solution. But that`s precisely what I believe in spirit LAYC is proposing, including the so-called compromises they have offered. They don`t seem to get the point. The community is opposed to the social service component of the project – read: Section 8 housing for troubled youth or whomever – not the charter school.

In fact, the neighborhood went on record in support of another charter school proposal (KIPP, I believe) which included arts uses as a significant part of its design and redevelopment not some corner room use and, most importantly, did not have a social service component to its proposal. Just making use of an abandoned building – which continues to be the recurring theme in LAYC`s argument – in and of itself, is not something the community ought to accept as a good thing.

If you still don`t get it, just ask the resident homeowners who now live (or used to live) on O Street NW what a great use S.O.M.E. has made of those once-abandoned/vacant buildings, and then ask any resident within a 10 block radius what they see every day as an outcome .