- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 23, 2005

Residents who met yesterday with District officials about the planned Anacostia riverfront baseball stadium expressed numerous concerns, including their worry that they soon will be unable to afford to live in their neighborhood.

“You have to worry about the people and children who cannot afford these places, who will be homeless,” said Patricia Patterson, who lives in the Greenleaf Gardens housing project in Southwest.

About 50 residents attended the meeting with the members of the Anacostia Waterfront Corp. and other city officials to discuss ways the roughly $435.2 million stadium project can enhance the surrounding neighborhoods. The meeting, at the Van Ness Elementary School in Southeast, was the first of three planned to discuss issues ranging from what types of restaurants might open to whether affordable housing will be included.

The stadium will be home to the Washington Nationals, who arrived this spring as the city’s first Major League Baseball team in 34 years.

The stadium is not expected to open until 2008, but it has stirred controversy and debate since it was proposed last year.



The deal with baseball officials to bring a franchise to the city includes the promise to build a new stadium, which was almost killed when D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp, at-large Democrat, introduced legislation in December calling for half of the cost of the stadium to be paid by private funding.

Mrs. Cropp relented to baseball’s demand that the city unconditionally guarantee construction of the 41,000-seat ballpark. In exchange, baseball officials agreed to share the insurance premiums to cover cost overruns and reduce the penalty against the District if the ballpark is not ready on time.

Among residents’ concerns was that the city should focus more time and money on public schools and ensure that minorities receive jobs and contracts related to the stadium.

Most recently, a property owner filed a lawsuit claiming the city’s latest study on acquiring the land, doing environmental remediation and meeting infrastructure requirements is likely underestimated by tens of millions of dollars.

In response to concerns yesterday about housing issues as well as those about crime, overdevelopment and parking, officials said a dialogue with residents is a good way to avoid future problems.

“We don’t want the ballpark just sitting in a sea of parking lots,” said Toni L. Griffin of the commission, a public entity proposed by Mayor Anthony A. Williams, a Democrat, and approved by the city council to lead efforts to revitalize the Anacostia waterfront.

“We would like neighborhood amenities built up around it, and we want to get input on what they could be,” Miss Griffin said.

Still, such efforts were met with skepticism by residents, who said their opinions have been disregarded in the past.

“It’s a no-win situation,” said Miss Patterson, president of the housing project’s residential council corporation. “One minute, somebody’s saying ‘I’m not going to get rid of this,’ but when you turn around, somebody’s had a meeting that this community has not been involved with, and the next minute, it’s gone.”

Outside the meeting, the organization protested that minorities already have been passed over for the jobs and the contracts.

“We are against the mayor’s quasi-public agencies controlling development in the District,” said Mark Hall, an attorney for the city-based Capital Area Minority Contractors and Business Association. “We feel that the African-American community is being left out. Why are unions being given these contracts and project-labor agreements where you have to go through the union hall to get a job, when less than 1 percent of all the people in the union are District residents?”

A. Scott Bolden, a lawyer and former chairman of the D.C. Democratic Party, agreed that residents must be part of the decision-making process.

“The equation of success has got to include them,” he said. “There’s no outreach, no dialogue. The [waterfront corporation] has got to reach out, otherwise it is just lip service, and that’s the worst message to send.”

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