- The Washington Times - Monday, June 18, 2001

A group of Northwest residents, fed up with years of illegal dumping behind their homes, is demanding that city officials come up with a long-term plan to keep their neighborhood free of the litter that has clogged a nearby lot.
Some 100 residents who live next to the vacant lot in the 3300 block of 11th Street NW in Columbia Heights are urging officials to clean the area on a daily basis and erect a 6-foot fence around the spot to prevent any more dumping from occurring.
Community members said they have tried to keep the lot clean after officials, over the past six months, went in and removed abandoned cars and truckloads of broken appliances and drums of used motor oil.
The situation has gotten so bad that several residents almost got into a fight two weeks ago after they caught some people trying to dump more refuse on the lot.
"Residents are doing all they can to maintain the lot now that it was finally clean after all these years," said Janie Boyd, a nearby resident and president of Columbia Heights chapter of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), a community group of low- and moderate-income members.
"But, we cant put ourselves at that kind of risk. And the city cant afford not to maintain this place after the time it has invested," Ms. Boyd said.
Residents will hold a community meeting tonight, beginning at 6 p.m. at 3331 11th St. NW, to discuss the issue. They have invited Dave Clark, who heads the citys Department of Regulatory Affairs, to hear the groups request.
City officials could not be reached for comment yesterday.
The problem with trash in the lot at Columbia Heights began more than 10 years ago, according to Ms. Boyd, when nonresidents began coming by and leaving debris behind.
"We have a back yard that you couldnt enjoy because you didnt know what was going on in that lot," Ms. Boyd said. "You didnt want any kids being hurt."
After years of calls to D.C. Council members, residents finally got some response: City officials sent workers out to clean up the lot in February.
During one visit in April, city workers, with dump trucks and bulldozers, removed 27 abandoned cars, broken refrigerators, dishwashers and toilets, and several 55-gallon drums of used car oil. Broken beer and liquor bottles and used syringes were also found and removed.
The next month, city workers returned to the lot to take down several abandoned brick sheds, which, residents said, had become a haven for drug activity and prostitution.
"It was a death trap out there," said Will Ward, ACORNs executive director, who is helping Ms. Boyd lead the fight. "The city has done good work, but were at a point where we've got to come up with some kind of long-term solution to keep the lot from becoming a dumping ground again."
Two weeks ago a group of residents saw several people try to unload more trash onto the lot. They prevented the litter from being unloaded, but a brawl nearly ensued.
Neighbors called the dumping a disrespect to their community, which sits between 11th Street and Sherman Avenue.
"Its very upsetting when people leave their trash there because its unpleasant and very disrespectful towards us," said Robin Lewis, whose row house overlooks the lot. "It gets pretty dirty out there, and we have to look at it when we go out to our back yards."
William Bowman, who lives nearby, said he records the tag numbers of cars that leave debris on the lot.
"Ive got to do that because its not right," Mr. Bowman said as he sat on the porch of his home yesterday afternoon. "Its a crime, and people should be held accountable for that."
Ms. Boyd said the community will continue to put pressure on city officials until their demands are met. "Were not going to give up," she said. "Well continue to fight."

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