- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 26, 2005

The District’s Northeast Gateway Revitalization plans should include recreation centers, affordable housing and other benefits from a citywide economic revival, residents of Ivy City and other Northeast neighborhoods said yesterday.

“I grew up in Ivy City, and it was a lot different then,” said Christine Baker, 41. “The houses were occupied, and everyone had big families. Now, the homes are all boarded up.

“It’s sinful,” she said. “You have the cheap little ‘ladies of the night’ selling for [drugs] and young men just out on the streets selling drugs. … I hold the District government responsible for the blight.”

About 80 persons — including young professionals, senior citizens, renters, homeowners and business owners from Ivy City, Arboretum, Carver Terrace, Langston Dwellings and Trinidad — gathered inside a community room at the National Arboretum for the District’s 2-hour presentation and discussion of concepts and strategies for reviving the neighborhoods.

Randall Gross of Development Economics, the lead consultant on the project, presented the plans, which included promoting affordable home ownership and preserving affordable housing so residents won’t be displaced.

The plans also include strategies to improve the look of the Florida Avenue Market, the New York Avenue “Triangle,” formed by Bladensburg Road, New York Avenue and Montana Avenue, and to incorporate the historic Crummell School.

“This is just the beginning of the process,” Mr. Gross said. “Our job as your consultant was to provide you with strategies. … Nothing is set in stone. The D.C. Office of Planning welcomes your input.”

Remetter Freeman, a Crummell graduate, said she would like to see the school house a library.

“I lived here,” she said. “It was a close-knit, working-class community. Now, that’s gone. We want Crummell restored for the community. We need a place for our seniors, day care and training for youngsters.”

Mr. Gross and Deborah Crain, from the D.C. Office of Planning, answered questions after the presentation. Long lines formed immediately as some frustrated residents and business owners shared their concerns.

Kathy Henderson, a Ward 5 Advisory Neighborhood Council representative, has attended every project meeting but yesterday emphasized again the need for recreation centers and help for each neighborhood.

“While there is a great need in Trinidad, there [also] is a great need in Carver Terrace,” she said.

Audrey Ray, 51, said she moved to Ivy City when she was 12 and is now mortified by what her neighborhood has become and how it’s been allowed to deteriorate.

“A wise person said, while you are dreaming, you will never get anything done,” she said. “I don’t want to [hear about] another concept or strategy. You have a place with rapists living in my community. I had no idea. No one asked my permission. Decade after decade, and I’m sick of it.”

She attributed many of the problems in Ivy City to Dream Nightclub on New York Avenue in Northeast.

“Anytime, I can come home and see a [sexual act taking place] in front of my home,” Ms. Ray said.

Mario Cristaldo, an affordable housing advocate who lives in Columbia Heights in Northwest, told the group, “gentrification is coming,” and urged residents to organize themselves.

“We’re not going to fix anything if we don’t organize ourselves,” Mr. Cristaldo said.

Mark Phillips of Carver Terrace commended the Office of Planning for hearing residents’ comments and questions.

“The plan has come a long way, and a lot of our concerns were included, but what will the city do?” he asked. “Now, [the District] needs to take action. I was pleased with the presentation, but that was just the first step. Let’s move on to the second step.”

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