- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 8, 2001

D.C. Council members said they considered more than just numbers as they wrangled over how to redraw the boundaries of the city's eight wards, as required every 10 years by the U.S. Constitution.
Good decision, say city dwellers, noting that each ward has its own particular character, attributes — and troubles. Residents and community leaders recently told The Washington Times about some of the problems in their wards that have irritated them most.

WARD 1: Parking blues
This ward, near the center of the District, is commonly habituated by young professionals. Its clubs and restaurants cater to international tastes, and tourists with name tags are at a minimum.
It's also the part of town where a parking spot is prized as much as a vacant apartment.
"Oh, big problem. Huge. Terrible," says John Kwak, 29, when asked about parking near his convenience store at 18th Street and Adams Mill Road NW. "We need some kind of parking building."
Residents here in Northwest live with potholes, roaches, skyrocketing rent, even cabbies who "aren't going that way," says one Ward 1 dweller. Car stereos sometimes blare at all hours on weekends, and women are a bit leery about running in Rock Creek Park, even during the daytime.
Parking, however, is what gets most really riled.
Lisa Romansky, who recently moved from the Adams Morgan/ Mount Pleasant area to Northern Virginia, adores her new garage. "After 7 o'clock it was, like, forget about it," she recalled of the difficulty in finding street parking after work.
The situation was so bad for Mrs. Romansky, 28, that she often turned down offers to go out at night because she feared there would be no place to park when she returned home.
If residents can't find a spot, they say they are forced to invent one. That doesn't go over well with the police, who won't hesitate to leave one of those pink $20 tickets under the wiper blade. Orange boots are a common sight here.
"I just plan every Sunday on getting a $20 ticket," says Mount Pleasant resident Brian Davis, 33.
For those without cars, like the elderly, crime and loitering are the real problems.
Walter C. Pierce Park on Adams Mill Road is a sore spot for Victor Zebina, 72. "There are guys sleeping everywhere. Drinking. They set the garden on fire two weeks ago, the sixth time in a year."
The neighborhood effort to clean up and rebuild the park, while applauded by Mr. Zebina, will benefit the locals only if police patrol the area to keep the vagrants out.
For Evelyn Bolding, 69, it isn't any of these things that truly upsets her. It's the dog walkers that put her off.
"They let them poo-poo" everywhere, she says. "That's the only thing that bothers me."
— Gerald Mizejewski

WARD 2: Changing times
The social problems in the central ward, hard by the Potomac River, are similar to the struggles played out in other towns across the country: the ever-widening divide between the haves and the have-nots.
In this case, the residents, who live in neighborhoods as far west as Foggy Bottom to eastern sections of Shaw, Chinatown and Mount Vernon, have one thing in common. Each side is waging a battle to keep from being pushed out of its homes.
Foggy Bottom residents are trying to save their affluent neighborhood from becoming what they call "a concrete jungle." Meanwhile, residents living in the eastern parts of Sursum Corda, Shaw and Logan Circle are fighting to keep affordable housing from vanishing in their neighborhoods.
"There's a tremendous lack of affordability," says Leroy Thorpe Jr., vice chairman of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2-C, which includes part of Shaw. "Renting is almost impossible."
For a while now, residents along the Pennsylvania Avenue corridor have been pulling together to stop developers from tearing down historic buildings and replacing them with more luxury condominiums, upscale retail shops and hotels. Five new apartment complexes are being erected along the 2500 block of Pennsylvania Avenue, which some nearby residents worry will bring more traffic to their already crowded roads.
"Everywhere you turn, there's something going up," says Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Dorothy Miller. "You come out on the street, and there's no room to move around. You feel like you're being squeezed out of your home."
Don't begin to share those complaints of overdevelopment and jammed streets with Willard Jackson, a Northwest man who is temporarily staying with friends in a tiny, brown, two-level town home on Pierce Street in Sursum Corda. The 60-year-old retired truck driver says his biggest concern is being able to pay the rent.
Mr. Jackson is afraid he will end up on the street once developers are done rebuilding neighborhoods that once offered below-market rate housing but now are financially out of the reach for hundreds of ward residents. Mr. Thorpe suggests increasing the 20 percent affordable housing requirement to 30 percent to prevent minorities from being pushed out of their neighborhoods.
"They [Foggy Bottom residents] think they've got problems," Mr. Jackson says, sitting on the unkempt lawn of his temporary residence. "We're barely trying to keep up with the rent, and we may have to find another place to live. Now that's a problem."
— Ellen Sorokin

WARD 3: Traffic woes
Roger Biggs could easily be a candidate for road rage — but not because he's angered by the actions of fellow motorists. It's the gridlock along Wisconsin Avenue in Northwest that makes him crazy each day.
"You just sit in your car sometimes and slowly lose faith that you'll ever get to work on time," Mr. Biggs, of Gaithersburg, says as he sits on a park bench in Dupont Circle on a recent afternoon. "The road is jam-packed with cars and buses. It's a mess."
Mr. Biggs' tale of road congestion and frustration on one of the busiest arteries in the city isn't new to Thomas Dibiase, an advisory neighborhood commissioner who represents Friendship Station.
Traffic along the Wisconsin Avenue corridor is one of the nuisances of living in this Northwest ward of affluent neighborhoods west of Rock Creek Park, stretching from Georgetown to Chevy Chase, on the border with Montgomery County.
What bothers residents most is the cut-through traffic that often ends up on their tidy tree-lined neighborhood streets.
"It can get pretty bad up here," says Marcie Johnson, a mother of two who lives in Cleveland Park. "Sometimes it can get so bad that I'm afraid to let my children out to play because there are too many speeding cars."
So what's to blame for the traffic? Some residents point their finger at a recent slew of new town homes, office buildings, apartment complexes and retail-shop expansions that have sprung up, with or without their approval, throughout the ward since the mid-1990s.
"It just seems there are more and more buildings going up, and we're left with less and less space," says James Ayres, who works in an office building on Wisconsin Avenue.
Not all development is looked down on, Mr. Dibiase says. "It really has a lot to do with what kind of development it is and where it's placed."
For example, residents would welcome more retail expansion at the old Hechinger store site at Wisconsin Avenue and River Road, he says, noting that the store has remained empty for 18 months.
But residents would not approve of much larger housing in neighborhoods because they see such projects as threats to the neighborhood planning and stability. "Everything must be done with some kind of limit," Mr. Dibiase says.
— Ellen Sorokin

WARD 4: Urban renewal
Georgia Avenue was once considered the District's main street. But 30 years of neglect, a lack of development and middle-class flight have forced today's Ward 4 residents to travel into other parts of the city for a family dinner or a cup of gourmet coffee.
"There's been a lot of promises over the years that Georgia Avenue will get economic development," says Hatti Holmes, an advisory neighborhood commissioner from Petworth. "I don't know what they're doing."
It's a well-tread issue that helped Adrian M. Fenty unseat longtime D.C. Council member Charlene Drew Jarvis in last year's election. Mr. Fenty, a Democrat, told fed-up residents he will make it his priority to clean up the "nuisance properties."
"It's a broad category, but it's the hardest one to get action on," he says.
Among the council member's other pet peeves are dirty alleys, a lack of police officers on the streets, and the slow process in getting stop signs and stop lights. "People request them and they never go up," Mr. Fenty says.
As in any part of the city, residents complain of streets that need major repair. Many are at odds with a popular nightclub's clientele, who spill out of the establishment at night.
This ward, which straddles the District's northeast-northwest axis and includes Fort Totten and Brightwood Park, is home to concerned adults who want something to keep the young people busy and out of trouble.
"They need to put in recreation centers, more activities. We need counselors to come in, baseball teams, swimming leagues," says Petworth resident Patricia Hankins, 40.
She also wants more block meetings and get-togethers so residents can talk about what they need.
Charmelle Hollingsworth, 21, would like to see the Rudolph Elementary playground renovated.
Ralph Reynaud, 57, of Manor Park, brought up the tennis center that recently opened in Southeast. His eyes lit up as he described the computer training available to children at that facility.
"My concern is for youth at risk," Mr. Reynaud says. In Ward 4, "where do the youngsters go?"
— Gerald Mizejewski

WARD 5: Transient troubles
With the dew still on the fairways of Langston Golf Course, lines of homeless men begin forming at 7:30 a.m. outside So Others Might Eat, a soup kitchen that ends up serving breakfast and lunch to about 1,000 before the day is through.
The problem is, these people don't live in Ward 5, but they spend the day here like an invading army. They mill about, toss empty liquor bottles and stagger around.
Not the best of all worlds for the people who have to live in neighborhoods such as Truxton Circle, at the easternmost part of the Shaw community, which also extends into Ward 2.
Fortunately, many of the treasures in Ward 5, which borders Prince George's County and the Anacostia River, are far enough away that they are not vulnerable to broken glass, graffiti and passed-out drunks.
"As a community, we are supportive of feeding programs for the homeless, but in our community, it's a question of balancing the interest of the homeless against the interest of those who live in the community and have to absorb whatever negative impact flows from the significant influx of people who come in daily for services at that location," says James D. Berry Jr., chairman of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 5C and a 17-year resident of Ward 5.
Unfortunately, Mr. Berry says, there are lots of liquor stores and groceries that sell beer and wine along North Capitol Street, Florida Avenue and New York Avenue.
"They're magnets for those homeless persons who have alcohol and mental health problems because they stay there all day — there's no place for them to go," he says.
Open-air drug markets in the working-class neighborhood of Truxton Circle don't help matters, either. For the past decade, trash, transients and drugs have run amok, but a change is in the air, Mr. Berry says.
"It's a community in transition, due to the forces of gentrification, escalating housing prices, the introduction of the ATF at New York and Florida avenues and the new subway that's planned. This gives us reason to look up," he says.
— Denise Barnes

WARD 6: The forgotten
Within earshot of the U.S. Capitol stand row houses that date back to when "bullfeathers" was an interjection, not a restaurant.
In the Capitol Hill neighborhood blocks away from the hustle and bustle of this nation's elite, renovated houses with manicured lawns are nestled beside houses with front porches that look like a city dump.
Welcome to Ward 6, an insular part of the city divided by the Anacostia River where poverty and power mix with beauty and blight.
Unsolved murders, open-air drug markets, a lack of city services and unevenly enforced parking codes have created in many residents a feeling of being ignored by city leaders.
"They are not interested in the neighborhoods," ANC member G. Keith Jarrell says of the District's efforts to revitalize his community.
Other parts of the ward include Anacostia, Kingman Park, Lincoln Park, Navy Yard, Southeast, Stanton Park and Union Station. Residents throughout the ward complain of the same woes.
The ward's council member, Sharon Ambrose, a Democrat, says she understands the residents' complaints and fields hundreds of calls a week about everything from the trash not getting picked up to why the sidewalks can't be fixed.
"They are saying, 'Why are we building this [expletive] new convention center when I have tree limbs falling on my car?'" Mrs. Ambrose says, referring to the $756 million Washington Convention Center being built with millions of taxpayer dollars.
Since 1972, Wilbert Hill, a member of the Ward 6 ANC, has lived in the 700 block of 14th Street NE. But for almost as long as he has lived at his house, there hasn't been much in the way of economic development, he says, except for fast-food restaurants and a Metro station that has caused more problems for residents who can't find parking on their streets.
"That's all we get down here. We can't survive on that," Mr. Hill says, noting that residents are moving out as fast as many of the unwanted social services agencies helping the mentally ill, drug and alcohol abusers, and juvenile offenders are moving in.
"These are things you don't have anywhere else," Mr. Hill says. "I am looking to move someplace where there is change taking place."
— Daniel F. Drummond

WARD 7: Abandoned buildings
The front door of the house in the 4200 block of Grant Street NE is wide open, beckoning to drug users to come in and find a place to flop. The door is a piece of plywood, the brick tenement is vacant and rotting, and its windows are mostly broken, creating a checkerboard effect among the smaller panels.
This is the part of the District that is not enjoying revitalization, where tour buses don't go and residents feel overlooked.
Ward 7, which borders Prince George's County and stretches across the city's northeast-southeast axis, has many such unsightly houses and buildings — abandoned, sometimes boarded up, and making things worse for the hard-working and proud folks who call it home.
"Everyone else in here keeps up their yard, puts in flowers. The neighborhood looks good except for that house," says Louise Stevenson, 65, who retired from a 27-year career with Wonderbread and lives on Hanna Place SE, a narrow street off Benning Road.
Ms. Stevenson's lawn is manicured, and her friend Vanessa Taylor is planting petunias and tulips that grow from mulch around two maple trees. She is pointing across the street, where a vacant house mars the view.
"Why don't they fix 'em up? They just build them and patch them. They don't fix them," she says.
The abandoned houses provide shelter for drug users and dealers, and the vacant apartment buildings become hotels for undesirables. That's why many residents make sure they're home before dark.
"You're a prisoner in your own home," says Ms. Stevenson, who now avoids going to a nearby corner store because of the young men who loiter there.
The other ward concerns include a lack of police, little economic development and poorly maintained streets. And almost everyone opposes privatizing D.C. General Hospital.
"East of the river as a whole, and Ward 7 in particular, has always been overlooked by the city's leadership, and it hurts us in service delivery," says council member Kevin Chavous, Ward 7 Democrat.
Mr. Chavous hopes the relocation of the Department of Employment Services to Minnesota Avenue and Benning Road will serve as an anchor for economic development.
But the ward and the entire area east of the Anacostia has no sit-down restaurant, and the shops there aren't ushering in the kind of activity that is preferred.
On a recent Wednesday, about a dozen young men gather beneath a "no loitering" sign outside a Subway shop at Benning Road and East Capitol Street, asking for money and gawking at female passers-by. Inside, clerks take money and serve food through narrow gaps in bullet-resistant glass. Next door is a liquor store.
Upon the arrival of a police cruiser, the group breaks up, scattering back to souped-up cars or off into the neighborhood that has far too many abandoned homes.
— John Drake

WARD 8: Losing ground
First went Ward 8's busy Milwaukee Place McDonald's. Then the ward's only grocery store left. There is still one pharmacy, but it's not half as busy as the prolific open-air drug market on Martin Luther King Avenue SE.
"The drug dealers are invading our neighborhood," says resident Wil Atkins. "First to go was our public telephones."
The drug markets, which consist of blocks of two or three dealers, never close, day or night, in Ward 8. They are a stubborn, consistent affliction in the city's largest ward, where crime and drugs have pushed out crucial retail stores and left residents fearful and angry.
"This is a problem throughout the city, but especially [in Ward 8]," says Cmdr. Winston Robinson of the Metropolitan Police Department. "[Martin Luther] King Avenue is a real tough one. We are working on it, have made a number of arrests and have already pushed some of it further on. It's a matter of hitting them and hitting them and hitting them."
It is a part of the city where teen-agers come close to outnumbering adults and where dropout and unemployment rates are high. And it's an area where residents struggle to do their grocery shopping and avoid dark alleys, where sit-down restaurants are rare and public telephones are removed to prevent their use by drug dealers.
Cmdr. Robinson says the police department has already erased the city's "most notorious" drug market on Forrester Street in Ward 8.
"We have been successful, but this isn't a one-day or even a one-year process," he says. "It's an ongoing process, and it won't end anytime soon. We realize this."
The commander says the police need residents to work more closely with police to be able to eliminate the problem. Often, he says, residents know helpful details but don't say anything.
Council member Sandy Allen, Ward 8 Democrat, says residents have asked the police for help and have been working closely with law enforcement. "Still, there doesn't seem to be much relief," she says.
Cmdr. Robinson says residents slowly are "stepping out" to work with police. "That makes a big difference."
If it doesn't, unfortunately gentrification just might.
"[The city] wants to purchase large plots of land in the ward and construct expensive homes," says Arthur Jackson, a representative from the area to the Democratic State Committee. "That is pushing a number of longtime residents out."
It probably will push the dealers out as well, but too late for current residents, he adds.
— Jabeen Bhatti

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