- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 2, 2001

It was a wonderful day for a walk in the neighborhood yesterday except in Trinidad, a blighted community in Northeast D.C. where 113 abandoned and dilapidated dwellings put out the welcome mat for drug dealers, prostitutes and scores of Tabby-sized rats.
Temperatures soared yesterday along with tempers as residents of the Trinidad community in Ward 5 and ACORN (the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) activists walked through several blighted blocks to bring attention to the deplorable conditions.
The walking tour started in the 1700 block of Trinidad Avenue NE, a stone's throw from Webb Elementary School on Mount Olivet Road. The brick structure, once home for working-class families, has morphed into an unofficial morgue for the District. A woman's body was discovered in January inside a building owned by the People's Involvement Corporation (PIC) in an easily accessible apartment building that's surrounded with trash, not flowers and literally crumbling.
"Drug dealers and prostitutes use the building on the weekends. Usually, the trash is as high as the fence. We want the building torn down and restored for low-income individuals and families. We're human beings. We have feelings. Georgetown doesn't look like this," said Doris Barnes, a Trinidad resident who lives on Simms Place in Northeast.
Mrs. Barnes, 56, was joined by roughly 40 neighbors, ACORN staff members and D.C. Council member Vincent Orange, Ward 5 Democrat, during the two-hour tour that included the 1200 block of Simms Place, the 1700 block of West Virginia Avenue, ending at the 1200 block of Holbrook Terrace.
There are 14 abandoned buildings on the street Mrs. Barnes calls home. Wooden placards substitute for windows along with the remains of an eviction a couch and assorted items litter the sidewalk. There's a memorial to a slain person empty bottles of Remy Martin cognac stand as a testament to someone's life.
Mrs. Barnes said a young woman was sexually assaulted by several men next to her apartment on Simms Place. There's lots of trash and barren space where there once was grass. She said she's afraid for her elderly mother to be home alone.
Modestine Snead, 52, conducted the walking tour through alleys with a bird's-eye view of the majestic Capitol. She has lived in Trinidad for 18 years and has watched her community crumble bit by bit, she said.
"Trinidad has been overlooked for years. I think it's a disgrace, and we're less than 10 minutes from the Capitol," Mrs. Snead said.
"No child should have to pass a building like that," she said referring to the 1741 structure. "It has to affect them emotionally. If I were a child, I would have to think the city doesn't care about me."
Mrs. Snead said the principal at Webb Elementary called Mayor Anthony A. Williams and Mr. Orange for a year and got no response. And neighborhood children wrote letters asking that the property be condemned. "Finally, the city put a fence around it. That's what the city did. Can't Vincent Orange and the mayor hold PIC accountable?" Mrs. Snead said.
Trinidad residents wanted Mr. Orange to see the blight to see what they look at every day. For months, Mrs. Snead said they tried unsuccessfully to get him to meet with the community about their concerns. Finally, Trinidad residents decided to share some of their pain and some stench with their council member. They recently dumped piles of trash from abandoned buildings in Trinidad along with furniture and tires in his front yard.
Mr. Orange walked the streets yesterday accompanied by staff members and personnel from the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA), the Department of Public Works, and Gary Ponder, Ward 5 neighborhood services coordinator. Everybody took notes and everybody looked concerned.
"If it's a D.C. problem, we should be able to take care of it. We run into problems if it's a HUD property or a private property," Mr. Orange said while deflecting remarks from voters who vowed not to make the same mistake twice by voting for him.
"We can do a clean-it-or-lien-it," he said while talking to folks at the tour's final destination on Holbrook Terrace yesterday evening.
"I'll do everything I can to get this addressed. But all roads lead to DCRA and the mayor," Mr. Orange said.

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