- The Washington Times - Friday, May 26, 2000

Neighbors of Boys Town of Washington’s headquarters in Northeast say the group’s officials have ignored their long-standing complaints about water runoff and unruly children.

“Citizens feel Boys Town has not been a good neighbor,” said Norma Broadnax, chairman of an Advisory Neighborhood Commission for Ward 5.

A mound of dirt at least two stories tall on Boys Town’s property sits atop an underground spring just south of a row of homes, forcing water to flow into nearby basements and foundations, residents said.

Moreover, neighbors have complained often about trespassing and excessive noise by Boys Town youths.

“I think someone should sue Boys Town. I’m going to get Johnnie Cochran,” said a laughing Ethan P. Norman, who lives in the 1200 block of Delafield Place NE near the group’s Sargent Road headquarters.

Sharon Robinson, a public relations consultant hired by Boys Town this month, said officials have tried to involve neighbors in its plans and taken steps to fix problems. “We want to be a good neighbor,” she said. “We are looking to resolve the issues.”

Those issues are likely to be of great interest to residents of east Capitol Hill who are opposing the establishment of a $5 million Boys Town complex for neglected children in their neighborhood.

Boys Town paid $8.2 million in March for a large tract at Pennsylvania and Potomac avenues SE to build four Victorian town homes that will house up to 40 abused and neglected children.

Residents there already are upset that they weren’t told of the plans and say the development usurps one of the last spots for a commercial or retail business, hurting revitalization efforts.

Boys Town has treated residents in east Capitol Hill like the neighbors in Northeast, said Deborah Bandzerewicz, a Capitol Hill resident.

“They did not respond to the community until push came to shove,” Ms. Bandzerewicz said.

Imogene Gilmore, who has lived in the 1200 block of Delafield Place NE since 1959, said her basement and first floor have been flooded during storms because of the Boys Town mound.

Sam Wooten, who moved to Delafield Place in 1977, installed a small brick wall around his back yard, but it still floods. “It’s like someone turned on a faucet or a little creek,” he said.

Mr. Norman said the water in the alley and back yards creates a breeding ground for mosquitoes. His basement steps are covered in a moist, green growth.

Neighbors acknowledged that the dirt mound and water problems preceded Boys Town’s acquisition of the property in the early 1980s, but added there have been other problems.

Mr. Norman said he saw a Boys Town youth jump a fence and trespass onto a neighbor’s yard. When the homeowner told the boy to leave, the boy talked back.

Ms. Robinson, the Boys Town spokeswoman, conceded one of its youths had entered the man’s yard and “give him some lip,” but said the man refused to accept the boy’s apology later.

The homeowner could not be reached for comment.

Boys Town’s plan to build four new homes on its Northeast property is on hold by order of the D.C. Board of Zoning Appeals until the water problem is fixed.

Boys Town paid an engineering firm to study the problem, and the group is waiting for a city permit to begin building a retention wall, underground pipe and ditch to direct water away from residents’ yards, Ms. Robinson said.

The Department of Public Works will install more drains and level the alley behind homes on Delafield Place so it will no longer slope toward their yards, said Theodore Gordon, senior deputy director for public health assurance at the D.C. Department of Health.

Several residents have heard of the plans, but are still skeptical.

“I don’t believe nothing Boys Town says,” Mr. Norman said. “It’s a bunch of liars over there.”

Mrs. Broadnax, the ANC chairman, said, “I wish those people over in Southeast well.”

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