- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 7, 2016


One of the top priorities of the Greater New York Avenue Gateway Group is to “identify challenges and concerns of the business and community stakeholders and seek changes.”

Frankly, the No. 1 priority should be to do something.

For sure, New York Avenue NE is the gateway to the nation’s capital. But instead of looking like Pierre L’Enfant and Benjamin Banneker’s grand boulevard, it looks and feels more like a dumping ground.

Destination D.C. it is not.

There’s no eye-catching “Welcome to D.C.”

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The corridor is pock-marked with homeless shelters disguised as hotels and other lodging facilities, as well as two men’s-only shelters.

School bus parking lots, smelly garbage-dumping sites, gay and straight juke joints and clubs, and for-sale/lease signs stretch from the Maryland state line to the New York Avenue Metro station that opened in 2004.

When then-Mayor Anthony Williams opened the station that year, he hailed it as “a journey into the future in terms of connecting neighborhoods to downtown, people to workplaces and pioneering ways to finance public transportation.”

A lot of us agreed with him. Unfortunately, none of the three mayors who succeeded him have given the “gateway” much thought.

In fact, the city paid a team of consultants to peruse the corridor, and the closest they have come to identifying challenges and concerns is identifying challenges and concerns.

There are new spots, including a MOM’s Organic Market and a Nike sneaker store, and most of the fast-food joints are still there. Oh, and there’s where America runs, a Dunkin’ Donuts shop.

New luxury condos and apartments are on the rise, too. But who would live there to become neighbors with thousands of homeless people, amid hundreds of school buses, with no public transportation?

The westward high-rise views may offer stunning views — the ground level, not so much.

A new Costco and Lowe’s came. Wal-Mart was supposed to come, too, but somehow city leaders screwed that up.

D.C. power brokers are keenly aware of the dilemma, and Mayors Williams, Adrian Fenty, Vince Gray and Muriel Bowser have all talked the talk.

For his part, Mr. Williams went so far as to get a New York Avenue gateway study in the summer of 2002. They had another in 2006. In 2016, progress remains the talk of this town.

Too much talk, not enough action.

In those 14 years, city leaders could have realized that, if they had had schoolchildren learn how to write simple declarative statements and operate calculators, all else the younguns would have needed was a computer/laptop. Then our own students could be positioned to help revitalize and redesign the New York Avenue gateway.

Word is that the city is paying $3,000 a month for each homeless family sheltered along New York Avenue NE. Public dollars also cover catered lunch and dinner, extra security and sign in/sign out security personnel at the shelters. The homeless also get cash allotments and food stamps.

And the vicious cycle goes on and on.


Here’s hoping the new year resolutions are to end the cycle and get the damn gateway thing done.

Destination D.C.

Yeah, right.

Deborah Simmons can be reached at [email protected]

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