3 years for a tree

About 2-3 years ago the tree in front of my house died. The first year, I wasn’t sure it died but put a request in to have it ‘taken care of’ by the city. The leaves had fallen before all the other trees, and all the leaves kind of dropped at once. Well the city did nothing that first year. The second year, it was dead. It didn’t come back. No leaves. Nothing. I updated the request I had with the city from last year, saying it was most definitely dead. Nothing. Then I started complaining to then ANC Jim Berry, and making some commentary at the BACA meetings about it.
As Winter came the bark from the tree began to fall off in huge chunks and revealed big cracks in the tree, about 1/4 of an inch wide. The way the cracks formed and the way the tree was shaped, I could see a huge limb falling on one of the parked cars or worse the tree falling on my house.
Well yesterday, strolling by the house I discovered the tree is now gone. Yay! Took the City nearly three years to get it gone, but now it is gone. No one is in danger of having it fall on them. Also another dead tree on the block is gone too. Yay.

Foul

I’m a prude.
Back when I was growing up [sniped long story short, it was different]. Of course, I grew up in the Bible Belt.
Here in Shaw, you will get an earful of m*therf**ker, f**k, sh*t, and such, and that’s just from the 10 year olds. It’s nothing to be walking down the street and hear two people, passing by, engaging in a conversation that is basically profanity linked together with conjunctions.
When I first moved to Shaw, after living in other parts of VA and MD, I was shocked, shocked I say, to see a woman cursing at her 4 year old kid. Now, it’s old. I’m used to it. And that is sad.
Now I know some may say, well that’s just how some folks talk. Yes, that’s how they talk and it is unfortunate that their vocabulary is so limited. Colorful, but limited.

My Dream of Shaw
Taking an idea from my church’s reading group that we are constantly changing the world into what it aught (ms) to be, I began thinking about what I would like Shaw to be in the near future.
I want a diverse neighborhood. Diversity meaning a strange balance between rich and poor; black, white, hispanic and asian; poor, lower income, middle class, upper-middle class, and rich; old and young; gay and straight, all these in numbers where one does not stick out like a sore thumb or overwhelm and dictate the nature of Shaw.
Jesus said the poor shall always be with us. As long as there is public housing in Shaw and Section 8, we will have our poor. Yet, I have been reading that poor can be a temporary situtation. I grew up poor, in a lower class neighborhood. Some of my friends grew up the same, working class, or homeless, but have transcended poverty and wander somewhere in the middle class zone. I hope the same for my neice and nephew who are currently on public assistance, that they too may transcend their current economic standing. In order to transend poverty or at least not have it as a permanent designation for a family, there must be opportunities in the form of education, training and jobs; things lacking in areas of concentrated poverty. In order to de-concentrate you have to bring in the other classes. Bringing in the other classes will result in the displacement of the poor but not all the poor.
To balance the economic groupings of Shaw, the area needs a healthy middle class population to deconcentrate poverty. This middle class should range from contractors, plumbers, teachers, police, civil servants, IT, and retirees who invested well. They should provide the tax base to help fund social services and give to socially minded charities. But realistically, their numbers will displace some, raise prices (rent, real estate taxes), and they will make demands that old timers will find annoying.
In an 2001 Washington City Paper article an author, writing about his U Street neighborhood, mentioned that as soon as the area blacks begin moving into the middle class they move out of DC and into PG County, just over the border. He noted how the houses in his immdediate area were being bought by whites. My point, you can’t force black folks to stay, especially when they aren’t convinced that the crap they put up with (drug dealing, crime, trash, etc) isn’t going to go away soon enough. Why wait 5 years for the area to get better if you can buy in a quieter lower crime area today? If blacks aren’t moving in great numbers to replace the ones moving out, and there are whites/hispanics/asians willing to pay top dollar, then logically the racial demographics of the area will change. There are middle class black buying and staying in Shaw, but not in the numbers to maintain an overwelming majority. We come as singles, working married/gay couples, not so much as families with children. We are putting up with the crime, the trash, and all the other reasons of why those who have moved out, moved out, hoping that in a few years it will improve. I hope more black middle class households move to Shaw to make it the gleaming neighborhood it once was before the riots and to maintain the history of the area. But realistically, non-blacks are attracted to the area, and hopefully their numbers ( I’m specifically thinking of the clutch you purse ever time they see a black person population) will not overwhelm making it uncomfortable for blacks.
As far as businesses go, I dream of fewer liquor stores. A few places where I can walk to in 15-20 minutes from the house and grab a pastry, or sit down and eat, or buy a book. U Street has a lot of that with Cake Love (great cakes!!!) the kazillion Ethopian restaurants, the Islander Restaurant, and the other stores along U and 14th Streets. I would live to see some of that along 7th Street and North Capitol. I dream of places where I want to spend my money because they have something I want.
Shaw should be diverse. It should have services and businesses for everyone. It should be low in crime and as clean as a city can be. It should feel like home.

And this has what to do with living in DC?
The folks at the DC Nightlife Coalition (www.dcnc.org) are at it again, pissing off the Logan Circle folks. I belong to the not so active (compared to other lists) Logan Circle community listserv, and the DCNC have put a few posts that have attacted the ire of some Logan Circle residents on the list. News release titles such as “Anti-Nightlife Fanatics Disconnect With Rest Of City” (DCNC) ain’t gonna win you any friends in the neighborhood.
I remember first hearing about DCNC from my Swing dance group. But the thing is there is not a whole lotta love between bars and swing dancers because a) swing dancers are cheap; b) swing dancers don’t really drink; c) swing dancers will bitch about the floor and being charged for water; d) if you are a bar you are not going to make squat directly off the dancers, maybe off of the people watching the dancers, but not the dancers. A lot of the people in my swing dance calling for Jack Evans’ (Ward 2 Commissioner) head were suburbanites, people who I knew lived in Rockville, Alexandria, in other words not DC. There were two folks of the whole group who lived in the city and one of them made his living off of the nightlife.
I took a look at the DCNC website and saw a call to a January meeting:
Thursday, January 16th 2003
Committee for a Living DC Meeting.
Location: Black Cat, 1811 14th Street NW
Time: 2:00 PM
DCNC officers will be attending this meeting. The agenda will cover the status of a proposed DC statutory amendment to protect music and nightlife, status of the Committee for a Living DC amendments to the liquor license regulations, status of the public hall amendment to the liquor license regulations, plans for reigning in so-called “voluntary” agreements, and publicity efforts to draw media attention to nightlife issues in DC.

Now it is called a living in DC meeting, and I don’t see what aspect of LIVING in DC is addressed. From what I have seen their thing is preserving nighlife culture, fair enough, there should be nightlife. However, I gotta live here. I want to be able to sleep and not get woken up in the middle of the night by club goers getting out at 2AM, or traffic. If I had a car I wouldn’t appreciate having to compete against some suburanite with MD tags, who doesn’t have to pay a commuter tax, for a parking space. The nightlife is great for suburbanites (some of my closest friends are suburbanites) because they can come in, party and then leave. In some ways it is good for the city coffers with sales and revenue. Some businesses are good for residents in that they are places where you can go to unwind, hang with your friends and socialize. But not all businesses. Some businesses are bad neighbors, who blast music during schoolnights when you have to get up the next day to go to work. Yes there are noise regulations, but many a neighbor could tell of times when the police come, noise goes down, later noise goes back up, police may or may not respond, sleep already ruined. And let me say, base, that deep thump, thump, goes through walls and no earplug can lessen it because it is a vibration.
Some clubs and residential areas do not go together. Quick, name some nice neighborhoods you, your parents and your married friends would want to live in? There are neigborhoods that can cater to young people and a young population. What about people who are older and whose going out 1, 2, 3 times a week are behind them? What kind of neighborhoods for them? Why?

Confessions of a gentrifier

Confessions of a gentrifier

I don’t fit the normal profile of a gentifier…..

First, I’m not rich. On a yearly basis, if not more often my profession’s listserv goes on a tizzy about how we’re never paid much. according to some government tables I make about 1/2 of the region’s adverage income.

Second, I’m black. Of course some may want to take away my black person card because of the crew I hang with and I know I’m never going to win a Blacker than Thou contest. It says black on the birth certificate, so that’s what I’m sticking with.

Third, well there is no 3rd. But I like things to have a begining, a middle and an end.

I do fit some of the gentifying stereotypes in otherways:
I’m new, moving in in 2000
I have a graduate degree
I’m young (sort of)
I’ve improved my yard and house
I attend community meetings and support changes
I have no kids
I am a homeowner

I moved to Shaw because a) it is on the Green Line which will take me to Archives II, where I thought I would wind up working. b) not far from the Yellow line, which would take me to Braddock Road, where I did wind up working, c) near grocery store, laundry and everything else a car-less person needs, and lastly and most importantly d) I could afford it.

I’m a single woman, there is only so much house I can afford. I don’t like huge condo buildings, actually I hate condo buildings. Also I needed to be near the metro, as mentioned previously, I don’t have a car. Not a condo, near the metro, equals expensive. But my Realtor found something in my small measly price range.

All you new people just want to come in and change things!

That’s what I hear everyso often from several of the old timers. Old timers have been in the neighborhood since the Indians were fishing in the Potomac. They’ll lash out against people who have lived in the neighborhood 15 years, which apparently makes you a newbie still. The old timers are typically old retired women, who insult you in that being nice but insulting way.

I didn’t move in with a plan. I was aware of changes and potential and I am supportive of it. Change is going to happen. People who have been here 15 years and want change do see an opening and are acting on it using some of the engery (and naivite) of the new people. So yes, I guess in some ways I do want to change things.

** Cut down on liquor stores Good Lord, how many of these stores do you need. Right where I am there are about 3 stores in a 2 block radius where I can grab a 40, or some Mad Dog 20/20. I’m not against beer and wine. I drink wine but you won’t find me in the neighborhood liquor store, unless they start carrying a variety of foreign and domestic red wines, none of that Boones Farm crap but real wine.

**Do something about abandoned buildings Do old timers like abandoned buildings? It brings joy to my heart so see a house that previously was boarded up getting fixed up to be sold. Now people with the money to fix up houses also are up on the current economic realities and know that they can make some money and they do. They’ll fix up a house and sell it for an outragous price. Usually out of the price range of most lower and middle income folks. Heck even Manna fixed then sold houses that were out of my price range. So fixing up the abandoned buildings come at a price.

** Cut down on crime Can’t we all agree on this? Apparently not. Some newbie neighbors attended a meeting where she was attacked for wanted greater police presence on her street. The attendees told her if she wanted police presence she should have moved to Georgetown!

**Spend money in the community I would like to spend more of my hard earned dollars in the immediate area of where I live but I have 2 questions:
1. Are you selling what I want to be buying?
2. Will I be treated with respect?
One old timer chastised the group for not supporting Black businesses and the businesses that have been here since forever. Well I would support those businesses if they sold something I wanted to buy. See the comment about the liquor stores. They aren’t selling what I want, and I am not going to buy what I don’t want. I want fresh fruit. I want variety. Secondly, I don’t want to be treated like a criminal before I even walk into the store. I know the neighborhood was not and in some spots is not safe enough to remove the plexiglass between the cashier and the customer. But I find the whole experience insulting in some ways, so given a choice, I choose not to but myself through that.

I choose to go to Giant on P Street. They have what I want, they don’t insult me (the cashier may ingore me, but not insult me), and I get to spend my dollars in Shaw. I also support Chain Reaction. The service is good, the prices okay, and most importantly they’re close. I don’t eat at any of the take out joints, this goes back to the not selling what I want. I would like a nice sit down place, and I have yet to try the Italian restaurant on New York Ave, but that is still far. The best I can do is the Wendy’s on Florida, which also is far, but they have the Wendy’s Jr. Cheeseburger. If a store or restaurant that was nice and clean and respectful opened up I may visit it and maybe even patronize it.

They’re are some things that I and my fellow newbies do that are threatening to the old timers and anti-gentrifiers, and I’ll try owning up to them.
***You’re trying to move people out of their homes. Yes and no. Are these the loud drug dealers down the street? They why hell yes, I want them gone. The old timers may remember when Soinso was a cute little kid, but now he’s 20 and is hanging with a dope selling crew. They may feel sorry for them. Newbies show up and they just see the dope selling crew, not the cute kids they were. Sadly, some of these dealers work out of their grandmothers/momma’s/girlfriend’s house and when a community of law abiding citizens set they’re mind to it it becomes “get rid of them all and let G-d, sort them out.”
Even in situations where it isn’t drugs but quality of life issues like noise and trash people look at it as a problem to be fixed and the easiest solution is to get rid of the problem instead of changing the behavior. Section 8. That tends to be synomous with problem house. They’re are some good Section 8 people, but if a house has 12 people running in and out of it at all hours; people putting all their business out there on the street; children running around like they don’t have any home training; being loud; being bad; being ugly, people just call it a Section 8 house. So yes, those people are targeted.
However there are people who are pushed out because of higher taxes and rents. They are not targeted, they are just victims of the changing economic times. Of course, according to Lance Freeman,at Columbia University, and Frank Braconi, at the Citizens Housing and Planning Council people aren’t pushed out (see New York Times 3/26/2002 The Big City; The Gentry, Misjudged As Neighbors by JOHN TIERNEY ). They were bound to leave anyway regardless of what was going on in that particular neighborhood.