Looking at the neighborhood with different eyes

So at forty *mumble* years old, I’ve become a mommy through the miracle of adoption. Seven years prior I became a spouse, after living in Shaw as a single lady for about ten years*. I, and the Shaw neighborhood, have changed and with those changes I’ve experienced the neighborhood differently.

After only being a parent for a few months, my view of the neighborhood and the city I’ve lived in for over a decade has drastically changed.Eyeglass binky DC bike mapI’ve observed this in parents, typically people who moved to the neighborhood as single people or newlyweds, and in time had kids, and moved. On an intellectual level I understood the desire to protect their children from the hazards and unpleasantness of some aspects of urban life. As a member of the middle class, you know you have an out, you could, by moving to a solidly middle class neighborhood west of Rock Creek Park or out to certain suburbs or exurbs, you nor your children have to tolerate higher crime, smaller houses, chance of the draw schooling, and off street parking. Now as a mom, I have a better understanding and have the desire to protect my Helpless baby.

But no, we’re not moving anytime soon.

Not to go into my personal career goals, but there is one scenario that would send us to PG County and I’ve already mapped out where we’d relocate. I’ve also been applying to positions in DC and those have much fuzzier scenarios of possibly, probably not, moving to the H StreetCapitol HillStadium Armory area. The job search had more to do with getting married, and I’m more dedicated to a great commute than any neighborhood.

The arrival of the Helpless baby has got me thinking more about parenting things I had thoughts about, prior to his arrival, and parenting things I want to research the heck out of. I have thoughts, slightly unchanged, about schools, child care, general safety, and use of transit. I already know what charter schools we will aim for, what charter will be our safety school, and which religious schools we’ll consider if the charters don’t pan out. Recently I have been thinking about how I could replicate my aunts’ and uncles’ success of raising high earning middle class black men, and I wonder how our neighborhood might work for and against that goal. Then there is the minefield of explaining things that he will observe as we walk around. He’s still non-verbal so I have time.

As I walk around, going to and fro the metro or neighborhood businesses, I see the neighborhood differently. I pay attention to other parents or nannies as they push, carry or walk their charges. I observe their strollers, what their kids wear, and where it looks like they’re heading. I take note what places have parents with kids and how welcoming those places are so I know where we might be able to go. The parents I see going about their day help me feel good about being a parent raising my baby in my hood.

 

*If you’re counting I’ve been in Shaw for a little over 17 years.

Twenty Years of Vacancy- The Langston School

100_0402.JPGThe John Mercer Langston School at 43 P Street NW has been sitting empty and vacant since 1997*. That’s 20 years of rotting away with nothing being done to bring it back to life.

When the problem of the school was mentioned at on Bates Area Civic Association to the representative from Ward 5 Councilman Kenyon McDuffie‘s office didn’t seem to be familiar with the hulking corpse of a building and might have confused it with another building. There is so much development going on, some involving city owned land, I understand it can be confusing.

Part of the problem is whomever is the Ward Councilperson for Ward 5 is not particularly interested in being proactive regarding this property. They and or their staff seem to believe the “process” will take care of it. The process is broken.

As a school, charters have first dibs. Langston is a gut job, so no serious charter school is going through the long process getting the school to dump millions of dollars in the building’s renovation. There was a fight for the John F. Cook across the street that Mundo Verde eventually won and added to, but Cook was empty for less than 5 years and was still functional as a building.

Yes, there is an educational center next door in Slater that has always expressed interest in Langston. However the occupants of Slater are poor tenants. Poor as in too poor to do the work needed to have the Langston building gutted, brought up to code, while respecting the building’s Historic Landmark status. However, councilperson staff will almost always drag up that unrealistic possibility when asked about what’s is if anything going on with Langston. The occupants of Slater have been interested in Langston for at least 15 years. If given 15 more years they will express the same level of interest without much action to show for it.

What’s the solution? Well I have an answer no one will like and possibly won’t happen due to the shared lot with Slater, luxury condos. Turning schools into high priced condos or apartments add fuel to the fire of the gentrification unaffordable housing debate. But let me remind you of the problem… Historic Landmark; 21st century building codes; rotting corpse of a building. To work with and deal with those things require the kind of money DINK households making 100-200% of the AMI bring. This cannot be and should not be done on the cheap. And unless the city wants to throw the Slater occupants under the bus, so they can offer a well heeled charter both buildings to make it worth the while, no school with the ability to rehab both buildings (Slater is bad off too) is seriously going to touch it.

*According to the Wikipedia page about the school.