A park can be a plus or a minus depending on how it is used and who is using it

So about a week ago the Help (the spouse) was walking around with the Helpless (the baby) and noticed a broken lock on the 1st Street side of the Florida Ave park. I told him to contact 311 and he did not find the response satisfactory, so I tweeted, and got a very satisfactory response.

Keeping the park ‘safe’ is very important.  Because there are a lot of little signs of the return of the neighborhood’s bad old days, I figure I should revisit the days with the Florida Ave park was a liability and not an asset.

Let’s enter the InShaw time machine to 2006 and a post where the Florida Ave park is mentioned in passing. At that time the park was mainly a place where the homeless and addicts (booze & drugs) hung out. The park was open, in that there was nothing stopping anyone from sleeping there or being there at night. The problem at the time was alcoholics would go from Sunset Liquors on 1st and Florida and hang out at the park. Citizens figured if we removed the liquor store that would help clean up the park. The actual solution was making the 1st Ave side an exit only side and renovating the park.

So a decade ago the park was a liability. Kids rarely played on the playground, and maybe played on the courts (depending on if bigger kids and adults allowed it). The playground was the domain of the homeless and the addicts. Parents would try to make a go of it, but finding broken glass or used needles among the wood chips or a passed out adult on the slide was discouraging.

Now the park is an asset. The adults are pushed to the sides at the tables on Florida Ave or the tiny section near the exit on 1st (more on FL Ave because there are electrical outlets over there), and the kids are in the playground area, as it should be. I believe I’ve seen kids from the nearby charter school use the park during the school day. Sundays, when the Bloomingdale Farmers Market is in session, the park is filled with parents and young children. We included the park in our adoption book, as a plus. Now that we are parents, I’d like to make sure the park stays an asset, so when the Helpless is a little less helpless and can walk (or at least sit up) he can play there and expel some little kid energy.

Keeping it a park where little kids can play will require vigilance and positive use. It will have to be kept secure so it won’t get misused by adults and kids will have to use it so there isn’t a vacuum that negative elements will fill. Once it becomes a liability again, it will be another problem residents will have to spend energy fighting, and a blight that will bring down the attractiveness of the neighborhood.

Parents do not want to live the wire

BFM May 2017

I sent some questions to Dr. Hyra, author of Race, Class, and Politics In The Cappuccino City, a book about gentrification in Shaw, so I’m waiting to hear back. Until then I wanted to share something a friend mentioned to me.

I was talking about the book and my impression to a friend who is white and a parent and lives in another gentrifying neighborhood. Hyra has a theme in the book of “living the wire”, which refers to the HBO series The Wire, and in the context of Shaw, as I understand it means the danger, but not too dangerous environment of the neighborhood appeals to millennials. I and my friend are Gen-X, a generation that barely shows up in the book by name, and maybe we do not fit in the book since we are not millennials.

My friend stated that parents do not want to “live the wire”. My observations tell me that statement is very true. The parents who live and used to live in my end of Shaw bear that out, be they millennials or late Gen-Xers. In the early 00s, white couples who started having kids were more than likely to head for the ‘burbs or west of the park or elsewhere when those kids started hitting the age of 2. Why? Because DC schools sucked back then that’s why. Another thing is parents are protective of their kids be they well off or poor. Those who could move to a ‘better school district’ or a place where they felt their child would be safer, did. No one talks about poor people displaced by crime. Wouldn’t fear for the lives of those you love move you as much as rising rent?
BFM May 2017
People can be edgy when they are single. Maybe a little less so when they couple and the love they have for the other person makes them actually care for the safety and well being of their significant other. That care goes into overdrive when the babies show up.

Some parents moved, others dug in their heels and made it work. My friend, as well as some others who were around were pioneers when Two Rivers and Yu Ying were new and unproven. I saw that without the charter school system, these families would have left, because families did leave when their kid did not get into the charter school of their choice.

The childless versions of new comers, and I knew some who moved in when young and single (sometimes moving out as married parents), may give the impression of ‘living the wire’. But time and experience makes ‘living the wire’ less appealing, besides, there is far more attractive and wonderful things about Shaw (transit, dining, history, architecture, etc) than some misguided fantasies.

NOTE: I’m upgrading the servers this blog sits on in June. Hopefully something will be here at blog.inshaw.com .

News from other blogs or Friday Misc.

Over in Bloomingdale The Yoga District is having a mommy & me, but with a more inclusive title of Family Yoga and Community Playtime.

The Great Scott Roberts also mentioned some tasty info he got from a Bloomingdale restaurant hopefully to come at NJ & R. According to WashBiz Journal, Beau Thai, a carry out, is due to open in March, hopefully, maybe, fingers crossed.
Speaking of restaurants on R, anyone know what’s going on with 6th and R for the proposed Toque Cafe? I’ve noticed a change of windows and the application of paper over the windows, so I hope there is something good going on behind the paper.

Over here in the TC, the BACA blog tells that there will be a grand opening of the Eckstine and Ellington Theatre at the Dorothy I Height Community Academy Public Charter Schools (CAPCS)school, also known as Armstrong, this weekend.
have a great weekend y’all.

The kids are alright

One of my neighbors is a good neighbor. His goodness is in the fact that he actively does good, as opposed to the definition of “good” being “doesn’t give trouble.” He picks up trash on the sidewalk, not just in front of his house but on our whole block. When he is so inspired, he’ll take the trash pick up to another adjoining block. He works for a non-profit do-gooder organization, that allows him to go to far off lands to spread the good. This winter he and I shoveled our block. He’s a fascinating guy to talk with, good humored and most of the time good natured.
He’s mentioned his father, when I’ve asked or we’ve talked about why he does what he does, in passing. And one day I came upon one of his dad’s lectures on iTunes University, where his father speaks of my neighbor and his brothers as kids. Which is interesting, because many of us come from somewhere else, so we tend to only know our neighbors as their adult selves, with very little knowledge of what they were like as kids, teens, very young adults.
Anyway, my neighbors father is Raymond Bakke, a professor of urban studies/urban ministry, who has some ideas about city living. One of the ideas (of several) that I found a bit hard core was raising children in a poor urban environment. No private schools, no home schooling. And so my neighbor went to the tough Chicago schools, including High School. Bakke advocates for strong parental involvement. As far as making up for what the public schools lack, he suggests extra enrichment classes. Taking what parents may have spent on private school, he points out, those same funds could go to family trips abroad, books, lessons and other experiences that would enrich their children.
The children that Prof. Bakke mentions in his books and lectures are grown now, and I am honored one lives on my block. My neighbor is a product of urban family living, and it seems that the kids are alright.
… next week more grousing from me about bad teenagers.

Trend of Troubling Incidences on Metro

I mentioned before about the terrorizing teens on the metro here and here. Checking the other blogs around Prince of Petworth has a report of an incident on the Red line, with many comments following. What got me was one of the comments of a woman who was targeted by two teenage girls who reached into her bags, and got a “what you want me to do about it” from the station manager when she reported it.

Gentrification Reducing Downward Mobility?

I really wish the findings of a Pew Trust report (PDF) regarding economic mobility was a little clearer. The best I could figure, before they threw in the math equation, which totally lost me, is that when a neighborhood decreases poverty a child’s chance of heading downward as he/she grows up decreases. Yeah, there are a lot of negatives, unfortunately it isn’t clear when you make the sentence positive that there is the data to back it up. A positive sentence would be that when a neighborhood becomes richer, or parents move into a neighborhood with less than 10-20% poverty, their children will grow up to become successful adults who make more money than their parents. What was clear was a child growing up in a poorer neighborhood where poverty was 20% or more is more likely to become poorer.
I was reading the report trying to figure out if gentrification, or the lessening of the rate of poverty in a neighborhood, had any positive for poor children who remain in the neighborhood. The best I can figure from the report is that it doesn’t hurt. Apparently there weren’t enough families in the study group who moved from poor neighborhoods to neighborhoods with less than 10% poverty whose children became upwardly mobile adults.

Youth Jobs

I grew up in a mid-sized town in Florida. One day at a school assembly in the gym or cafeteria a person from Bob Evans came to speak to my high school about the franchise they were about to open up near the interstate. They were taking applications for waitstaff, bussers, etc and said it would be great after school work. I and a bunch of my friends applied. A guy named Michael from my group of friends got the job and held it from the time he was a junior until graduation. I, miffed that I didn’t get hired, started applying at other places around town and got a job at the Winn-Dixie at the age of 16. One of my friends got a job there too as bagger then stocker but about a year later got fired after an angry exchange with the store manager. Closer to DC and this century, my cousins in Laurel had the typical high school jobs working in the food service industry at the multi-national corporations of Pizza-Hut and Wendy’s.
So someone explain to me the city’s summer jobs programs. I’m a bit confused. Can’t kids get year round after school jobs? Which I believe is good prep for balancing college and “work-study”. So far this year we’ve seen youth produced green litter, tree destruction, and vandalism?/shoddy workmanship.
Before this year my knowledge of the program came from my (now retired) aunts’ description of whatever city sponsored intern was assigned to her at NGS. Some students were hits, with a great attitude, self-motivated, and talented with a wonderful work ethic. But there were several misses, of students who didn’t follow instructions, barely showed up on time, and screwed up so badly that she had to undo their work/damage. The bad ones were sometimes so clueless to their poor work that one asked for a referral letter. Then again, I’ve encountered college aged interns that bad too.
Getting back to the city program, what I don’t get is do these kids, or don’t they, have after-school work opportunities throughout the year? Is it cheaper than summer school, which serves the same purpose of keeping them out of trouble?
I guess what I’m trying to say is this large city sponsored youth employment thing is foreign to me. I’m not entirely sure what it succeeds in doing well. So somebody explain it to me.

13 year old boys are idiots

A neighbor kid along with his little friends were in the alley behind my house and for some reason one of them decided to break a window. I was in the backyard trying to get my little grill going to roast some peppers when I heard the crash of pane glass. Pane glass breaking has a different sound from glass bottles and car windows. I immediately hopped up on a chair to see what was up and saw a group (5 or more) kids running down the alley. I screamed at them and then recognized one and told him he was in trouble.
I went into the alley to see if they actually broke a window, and if so, was it to an occupied house. There was a couple peering over the fence and apparently the kids broke their window, we talked and I told them which house one of the kids lived in. Later I called another neighbor to get the phone number of the adult responsible for the kid I recognized, so I could give her a heads up. As far as I know the police have not been involved yet, and it looks like everything going to be worked out between the adults.
Reflecting on this, boys are idiots. It would have been pointless to ask “what were you thinking?” They probably weren’t. And to do something so stupid “one block” from where you live, very stupid.