- The Washington Times - Monday, May 21, 2007

The “Gateway to the Nation’s Capital” will become a red-light district of nude bars if bad judgment prevails on the D.C. Council. The council is considering legislation requiring that four nude “dancing” clubs displaced by the new baseball stadium be moved to New York Avenue NE. If these clubs are to be reconstituted at all, the city must ensure that no critical mass of adult entertainment — no red-light district — takes shape. This particularly should not be allowed to happen in a prime, highly visible entry point to the city. Red-light districts, like casinos, are inevitable magnets for crime, drug dealers and prostitutes. We expect responsible city officials to strongly oppose this measure.

For reasons of expediency, the council is pushing this proposal over the opposition of Ward 5 Council Member Harry Thomas Jr., who rightly opposes a concentration of these clubs in his ward. Councilman Jim Graham, who represents Ward 1, characterizes the opposition as complainers and gripers of the “Not in my backyard” sort, angered because some of the clubs cater to homosexuals. Mr. Graham’s point seems to be that gays must have their porn, and the gripers and complainers should shut up.

The D.C. Department of Transportation’s April 2005 study of New York Avenue found that 127,000 vehicles travel the route every day, “consistent with a major urban highway.” Some proportion of these people are seeing the District for the first time. Imagine Baltimore building a red-light district on Pratt Street just as it began pushing development around Camden Yards. It makes no sense. Or, for that matter, imagine Mr. Graham advocating nude clubs for Georgia Avenue neighborhoods, whose residents’ interests he is entrusted to protect. No chance of that happening, either.

Ward 5 is apparently the path of least resistance for council members who simply want to see the end of stadium-related controversies, and so they are attempting to railroad Mr. Thomas’ constituents. This would be a sad day for Ward 5, where progress of late includes the building of single-family homes. Condominium and hotel construction is changing the look and atmosphere of an avenue once derided as “the devil’s bowling alley.”

In 2004, we opposed the construction of a gambling casino on New York Avenue, on the grounds that the “Gateway to the Nation’s Capital” should not be an aspiring Las Vegas, nor should a casino be built near “three public schools, a homeless shelter, a faith-based substance abuse treatment center and the serene National Arboretum.” This newspaper’s facilities were established on the avenue a quarter of a century ago, and we are pleased that we have been part of a happy transition to a street worthy of being called an avenue. This progress would be jeopardized by the importation of nudie bars, hookers, drug dealers and other purveyors of trash and worse.

Mr. Thomas has been holding town hall meetings to let residents be heard. His constituents, including representatives of several prominent congregations, are frustrated that Mr. Graham and his colleagues want to fob nude gaiety onto his neighbor’s back yard. The District of Columbia should have no single red-light district, even less a red-light district which is the first thing many visitors to the nation’s capital would see.

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