- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 17, 2014


They plan to raise the roof off Barry Farm, the huge public housing complex that’s seen high-flyin’ NBA stars such as Kevin Durant and Gilbert Arenas take center stage on their neighborhood court.

There was such hope.

Federal and D.C. officials planned to 1) close the west campus of the adjacent and aged St. Elizabeths psychiatric hospital; 2) have the federal government move the Department of Homeland Security and Coast Guard headquarters onto the campus; 3) increase retail and transportation opportunities in the area; and 4) create new housing on the historic Barry Farm tract.

Who could ask for anything more?

A government plan that, well, goes as planned?

The feds didn’t do their oversight part, and now the plan is over budget, years behind schedule and likely due for the feds’ we-meant-well heap.

Their D.C. counterparts, meanwhile, are getting earfuls from activists and residents hot under the collar who want to raise the roofs off the dilapidated Barry Farm, a tract first established for freed slaves during the early years of Reconstruction and which today sits on more than 25 acres near the Anacostia Metro Station and Bolling Air Force Base.

They insist Barry Farm redevelopment be done their way.

Again, there was such hope.

The federal-D.C. plan called for the Coast Guard to move onto former hospital grounds, and it did. Homeland Security has not.

The plan called for new retailers, and they are weighing options, and transportation authorities are reviewing Metro and streetcar options. All this after Mayor Vincent C. Gray held his dog-and-pony show about the new bowl of yat gaw mein — or the 11th Street Bridge/295 configuration.

As for the Barry Farm plan, it ain’t going over too well.

Residents and activists knew full well changes were coming after the new security campus plans were given a solid OK by the feds in 2009.

News broke earlier this month that the Homeland Security plans may be shelved, and if it is, the job growth that poor, underskilled residents were hoping for would be lost, too.

But jobs aren’t what the hell-raisers are zeroing in on.

They want housing — affordable housing and free housing — for able-bodied folk, disabled folk, seniors and families who can’t make ends meet no matter how they try.

Parisa B. Norouzi, executive director of Empower D.C., is urging the Barry Farm housing project before the Zoning Commission be scrapped.

“If a community is going to be disrupted, displaced and redeveloped, there should be significant precautions taken to ensure that residents’ lives are improved, not hindered, and affordable housing stock is not eroded. The Barry Farm developers have not proven their ability to ensure these safeguards, and therefore the D.C. Zoning Commission must reject the Barry Farm [Planned Unit Development] application,” she said Monday, just hours before a zoning hearing on the Barry Farm plan.

This issue isn’t going away anytime soon, as Empower D.C. has a list of demands and has taken the city to court before.

While the Barry Farm plan may or may not reach a courthouse, it’s a D.C. bellwether for sure.

• Deborah Simmons can be reached at [email protected]



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