- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 2, 2006

One part of the District sits on the verge of new construction and investment, while another languishes with high crime and unemployment rates.

The problem, residents say, is that both sections are in the same quadrant of the city and are known by the same name: Southeast.

“The development in the city is great, but in Ward 8, it’s not,” said Gladys Shoatz, 55, a Ward 8 resident who works at the Douglass Community Center on Stanton Terrace in Southeast. “I see development over there that’s wonderful, and I see development over here that’s not. I’m proud of my Southeast but not of what’s happening to it. What’s happening in the Southeast across the river is not helping us.”

It’s what some have called “a tale of two Washingtons.”

Those east of the Anacostia River feel ignored and left hung out to dry, while those west of the river are given all the attention.

“I really believe that [city officials] are doing things their own way,” said Tasha Brown, 35, a caretaker who lives in Ward 8. “Their focus is on a lot of different issues that should not even be there, not at this moment anyway.”

Residents in the Anacostia and Congress Heights neighborhoods say they don’t think the city will ever do anything to help them improve their quality of life.

The high crime and low employment rates are a reflection of the perceived lack of investment officials have made in their neighborhoods, they say.

The 7th Police District in Southeast includes some of the most violent areas of the city.

Last year, the police district recorded 62 homicides, above the average of 57 since 2000. (However, the figure is less than half the number of killings in 1993, when 133 persons were slain during the city’s crack-cocaine epidemic.)

That means that nearly one in every three homicides in the city occurred in a police district that encompasses about two-thirds of Southeast and includes the neighborhoods of Anacostia, Barry Farms and Naylor Gardens.

The district also recorded more aggravated and sexual assaults than any other police district in 2005. But, it recorded fewer property crimes than other areas of the city.

D.C. officials do not deny that those who live in the area widely known as Anacostia tend to be underserved by those entrusted with their care.

“There is a natural jaundice, a natural fear on the part of these residents,” said Stanley Jackson, D.C. deputy mayor for planning and economic development. “They think, ‘It wasn’t for my grandparents when they came from Georgetown; it wasn’t for my parents when they came from Southwest. We have been in this quadrant of the city nestled here, disconnected, and all the sudden waves of change and money is coming, and it wasn’t for my parents or my parent’s parents — why should it be for me?’”

But those officials say projects in both parts of Southeast are not just for the wealthy. They say residents east of the Anacostia will benefit financially from the development around South Capitol Street Southeast, as well as from projects in Anacostia and Congress Heights.

Isolation

Ward 8 is isolated from much of the rest of the District.

With a population of just over 70,000, the area is a haven for high crime and has a 22 percent unemployment rate, the census shows.

As many as 36 percent of Ward 8 residents live below the poverty level, the census found. The average income in the area is slightly above $35,000 — a far cry from the average income of $67,000 in Ward 6.

Development in Ward 8 is scattered and not focused on those who need it the most, community activists and residents say.

“I think they’re doing a nice thing, but they’re leaving a lot of people behind,” said Paul Dunbar, 43, a Ward 8 resident who lives on disability payments.

Mr. Dunbar said city officials need to put on hold condominium projects and focus their attention on basic issues such as education, crime and housing for the homeless.

“I understand them building up the nation’s capital, bringing it up to par. But some people that are trying to succeed are being put down or put on hold,” he said.

Mable Carter, a resident who frequents Anacostia Restaurant and Catering on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, one of the area’s few sit-down restaurants, said she needs city money in her neglected Southeast neighborhood.

“I think people in the area are more concerned about the streets, beautification and economic development,” she said.

Mrs. Carter said she also is concerned about the quality of public education. The lack of money in her part of the city stifles her family’s ability to prosper, she said.

“We care about safety in our streets, good streets, affordable housing, good schools — not just academically but physically,” she said. “Those are the things we want to help our families stay together.”

Getting officials to listen might be an impossible dream, Mrs. Carter said.

“They hear us, and they don’t hear us,” she said. “We get Band-Aid repairs. It’s not a permanent fix.”

‘The new Ward 8’

D.C. Council member Marion Barry, a Democrat who represents Ward 8, says he wants to help.

The former four-term mayor, 70, has a list of proposed fixes. On a recent tour of Ward 8 with reporters from The Washington Times, he spoke of his vision for what he calls “the new Ward 8.”

His plan for revitalization includes new housing developments, a Giant Food supermarket on Camp Simms land off Alabama Avenue Southeast, a Target store off Good Hope Road Southeast and a new soccer stadium on Poplar Point.

“We are going to make this the new Ward 8,” Mr. Barry said. “We’ve got new housing and projects to lift our residents up.”

New or renovated housing along Fourth Street Southeast — such as the newly constructed Woodcrest Terrace town houses and Savannah Heights apartments — improve the look of the area.

Low-income public housing developments — such as Barry Farms, a haven for crime, and Trenton Terrace — will be demolished to make way for mixed-income housing.

The city’s new Unified Communications Center, a state-of-the-art 911 call center, will open soon on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, and officials have considered moving Metro headquarters to an area near the Anacostia Metro station. The newly constructed $26.5 million Town Hall Education Arts and Recreation Campus, known as THE ARC, is at 19th Street and Mississippi Avenue Southeast.

The Anacostia Waterfront Corp. (AWC), a quasi-governmental organization, also has plans to revitalize the land along both sides of the river by cleaning it up and bringing in retail, housing and parkland.

“Properly done, economic development should be greatly beneficial to people east of the river,” said Adrian Washington, the group’s president and chief executive officer. “The AWC will create something close to 40,000 jobs in the city. We are developing numerous programs to help residents get ready for those.”

Skepticism

With the exception of the Giant Food supermarket, residents said many of Mr. Barry’s Ward 8 projects are nothing more than pipe dreams.

“There’s one Southeast that’s already developed, and that’s on the side of the [U.S.] Capitol,” said Anthony Muhammad, a commissioner with Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 8A, who lives in the 2100 block of Minnesota Avenue Southeast. “Over here, it’s been planned, planned, planned, all with what one would call rhetoric. Talk, talk, talk is all it’s been for years.”

Dorothy Ferrell, who has lived in Barry Farms for more than 40 years, agreed.

“Ward 8 is going to have a lot of change,” said Mrs. Ferrell, a close friend of Mr. Barry’s who represents Barry Farms in ANC 8C. “But there is never enough development — never enough here, anyway, and never soon enough.”

Many of the new housing projects focus on luring higher-income residents into the area.

Prices for homes in Asheford Court, a planned high-end neighborhood on the back end of Camp Simms off Mississippi Avenue Southeast, start in the upper $400,000s — far above what residents in Ward 8 can afford.

Ward 8, which has the highest level of serious health problems such as AIDS and cancer in the District, has Greater Southeast Hospital nearby, but it lacks the medical care residents say they need.

A plan proposed by a task force assigned to examine the viability of opening a new hospital on the site of D.C. General Hospital suggests that the District open three ambulatory-care centers in Southeast.

Charles Shuler, 45, a retired Northeast resident, lived in Barry Farms for 15 years until he was shot in his neighborhood one night in 1999. Now confined to a wheelchair, he spends his days visiting with friends in Barry Farms.

“I don’t know who is going to come and help us,” he said, while visiting friends recently. “The city says [it is] helping, but I don’t see it. We’ve got to get the jobs down here, but I don’t see that, either. Sometimes, I just want to say, ‘Enough is enough.’ The place hasn’t changed for so long. Why would they change it now?”

Some D.C. officials say plenty is happening in Ward 8. They say they just need to communicate it better to residents there.

“There is more housing development there than in any other ward,” said Mr. Jackson, the deputy mayor. “A lot of it is happening right now — Camp Simms is happening right now; housing development is happening right now. … There are a lot of things going on. People have got to be in denial. I just think people are reacting to this whole notion of change.”

Officials representing Wards 8 and 6 disagree.

They say the city’s major projects, including the $611 million Washington Nationals’ baseball stadium under construction on the west side of the Anacostia, leave out the poor in Ward 8.

“We don’t like it. We feel left out, neglected, disrespected,” Mr. Barry said.

Ward 8 residents “supported me in my fight against the baseball stadium,” he said.

“We’ve got people over here that need to be uplifted and helped. We’ve got to take the community to a higher level. We have to bring them to new heights,” Mr. Barry said. “But having all of that over the river leaves us out.”

Sharon Ambrose, Ward 6 Democrat, whose area includes the new ballpark, agreed: “I’m not sure that [our development] does directly affect them.”

A wealthier neighbor

For the most part, the estimated 68,000 residents of Ward 6 live in stark contrast to those in Ward 8 — 21 percent live below the poverty level and 9.6 percent are unemployed.

The area is wealthier, better managed and safer than Ward 8.

D.C. officials have long touted the development around the stadium along South Capitol Street and the Anacostia as the permanent catalyst in underserved parts of Southeast, on both sides of the river.

The project, funded through tax revenues, includes a state-of-the-art, steel-and-glass stadium, parking and potential retail development along the stadium’s perimeter.

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams, a Democrat who is not seeking re-election, touted the revitalization of South Capitol Street and the Southeast neighborhoods as a major reason to bring back baseball to the District.

“The ballpark will speed the development that is under way to the east of the proposed site and will extend the revitalization to South Capitol Street,” Mr. Williams testified before the D.C. Committee on Economic Development in December.

“We are leveraging the development that is already under way in this area. It will be a lively area that will be active 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year — not just on game days,” he said.

The 41,000-seat stadium is expected to bring $2.5 billion in tax revenues to the District over 30 years.

The stadium stands on the edge of a major surge in development along the Anacostia between South Capitol Street and New Jersey Avenue Southeast.

Among the projects near the stadium are the new U.S. Department of Transportation building, condominiums, retail development and office space. Those will be constructed on the 55-acre Southeast Federal Center site next to Washington Navy Yard in Southeast.

Plans to develop the area north of the stadium known as “the ballpark district” include up to 785,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, up to 2,980 residential units, as many as 8,000 parking spaces and up to 1.6 million square feet in office space.

As many as four hotels may set up shop in the area. The Courtyard Washington Capitol Hill/Navy Yard at 140 L St. SE opened in July.

Housing in the area also is booming.

Capitol Hill Tower, at 1000 New Jersey Ave. SE, will offer 340 condominiums. Two new apartment complexes with a total of 298 units are in the works at 900 Fifth St. SE and 400 M St. SE, east of the stadium.

A good thing

Residents who live near the stadium site say the development in Ward 6 is good for them, and for their neighbors in Ward 8.

Pamela Green, 63, who lives on Fifth Street Southeast about nine blocks northeast of the stadium site, said she has lived in the area all her life, and is happy to see it change. She said the stadium is a good addition to the neighborhood.

“It’s going to be more active, more people here,” she said. “It’ll be for the best.”

Stan Morris, 54, a Metro employee who recently moved from Southeast to Clinton, said his time in the District has left him with memories of drug sales, prostitutes and shootings. He said the development is good for the District.

“It’s about time for the neighborhoods to change,” he said.

• Matthew Cella, Arlo Wagner, Tim Lemke and Nathan Bomey contributed to this report.

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