Saving the greenspace

Wow. The neighborhood really came out in the name of greenspaces and not tearing down Sursum Corda. Well also in the name of saving our parks and wondering, hey, when are we going to get a cool rec center like Kennedy?
I came late so I missed the dramatics when a jr. football team showed up as the important people spoke. They looked so cute in their jerseys and padding. The kids were a visual point that parks and recreation serve the children.
The politicos showed up. Our dear leader Jim Berry showed up, as well as Vincent Orange, Adrian Fenty (fuzzy man in center), Phil Mendelson, some guy named Perry running for the Ward 6 seat, some guy who I think was Leroy Thorpe, and various DC officials. When I showed up I think it was Vincent Orange who wanted by a show of hands who was for keeping the park. The majority carried. Marie Johns was not there. Of course, this was planned only a few days ago. Fenty’s folks were moving about the crowd getting contact info and chatting with people.
The crowd was mixed. White and black. Seniors to elementary kids. Based on the crowd no one can say this was solely a rich vs poor issue. As much as folks in the planning office or where ever want to say it is about income, the community showed that it isn’t. There were people from Sursum Corda in the crowd too. One old lady asked aloud to the crowd, why must Sursum Corda be torn down. A Sursum Corda fellow said because the buildings were over 35 years old. Oh, this got a small reaction. One fellow mentioned that he was 35 years old. Others in the crowd mentioned their homes were over 100 years old.
I think everyone knows once a greenspace is gone it is gone forever. Never to return. The poor will lose greenspace. The fixed income will lose greenspace. The middle class will lose greenspace. The well to do will lose greenspace. We will lose a public space that all the classes share and come together on if we just let the mayor and the planning office take it away.

7 thoughts on “Saving the greenspace”

  1. Sorsum Corda may need to be torn down and replaced. The buildings are 35 years old, but if they were never maintained, and never taken car of, they could be much cheaper to replace than to attempt to renovate.

    And 35 isn’t old enough to make it worth gutting them and saving the facade.

    I’m glad the meeting went well- it got a big write up in the post.

  2. Mari,

    If the whole redevelopment of Sursum Corda goes through there will be a rec center that will be better than the Kennedy Rec center.

    Here are more details about the project from the Office of Planning:

    Since the neighborhood is physically and economically segregated, proposed
    redevelopment includes a mix of incomes, from approximately one-third
    deepest subsidy (sec 8 style); one-third workforce housing (for average
    income families earning $40-$60K, for example) and one-third market-rate
    housing. What this means is that to protect those number of units, we’re
    proposing building approximately 1500 units of new housing. It is
    important to note that this “New Community” will provide 500 new workforce
    housing units, something that is desperately needed in the downtown DC
    There will be no “high rent” buildings or no “low rent” buildings. Every
    building and every block will be mixed income. You wont be able to tell by
    looking at a unit which is which.

    The District has made a commitment to the low income residents of those
    threatened units that they will not be displaced. This has been one of our
    biggest concerns. To deal with this, we have proposed a “Build First”
    policy –this means that we will build new mixed-income housing on land we
    already own or can acquire so that many families can move once — into
    new unit. They dont have to move to upper Northeast for three years and
    hope that they can come back downtown one day. Meeting this policy is very
    easy to do for small units — one and two bedroom apartments — since we
    control two large parcels on North Capital between New York and M St to
    accomodate higher density mixed income housing.

    We’re also proposing redeveloping the DC Housing Authority property at 1133
    North Capital St. into mixed use, mixed income housing and office
    By building in this fashion, it allows us to do a “checkerboard” approach
    tearing down, rebuilding and moving people all within the neighborhood, all
    the while, adding new workforce and market rate residents. OUR CHALLENGE
    lies in accomodating 200 family units in a build first scenario — there is
    very limited, vacant land suitable to low-density development most feel is
    suitable for families. Land east of North Capitol has very high zoning,
    making it prohibitively expensive for low density development AND
    unsuitable. Thus to accomodate some of the familiy units in the Build
    policy, we have had to look for suitable land.

    Why is NY Ave park a “suitable” option? There are several things we
    considered in looking at it. First, low scale residential density would
    already complement the rowhouse fabric in the neighborhood. The new
    would “look” like all the other attractive rowhouse blocks in the
    neghborhood. We also considered that there is an opportunity to redevelop
    the land adjacent to Armstrong school into a more centrally located
    neighborhood park, ONE AND A HALF blocks for NY Ave park, land that is not
    currently used for anything. There is also an opportunity to redesign and
    rebuild the park at New Jersey & O St. We have also been working closely
    with DCPS on this project. In addition to building a new 100,000 sf K-8
    school to replace Terrell JH and Walker Jones ES (which will also include
    adjacent new 20,000 square foot recreation and community center with
    swimming pool, playing fields and playground equipment, a new 5,000 sf
    library and 10,000 sf medical center ALL ONE AND A HALF BLOCKS AWAY from NY
    Ave playground), DCPS is willing to work with us on management issues at
    Dunbar to ensure local residents have better access to their yards.

    This is not about removing a park, it is about bringing new recreational
    opportunities north of New York Avenue in the context of a much more
    redeveloped and economically stable neighborhood. It is about building an
    integrated neighborhood south and north of New York Avenue with real
    amenities and services for families of all income levels. And it is about
    keeping low income residents in downtown DC.

  3. Nora,
    Yeah it is all about maintenance. Sursum Corda seems like it was badly maintained and worn hard by it’s residents. I wonder what SC community plans to do to make sure that whatever replaces their current housing isn’t trashed.

    I got the statement from the Mt Vernon Sq listserv too. Most of talks about housing units. The parts that do talk about parks in Truxton, such as the NY Ave seem to promise future things that do not currently exist. The NY Ave park exists in the here and now. The land near Armstrong as far as I know is closed off to residents, like Dunbar (unless you break in). I’m searching my fuzzy memory (feel free to correct me) but the folks fixing up Armstrong seem to want to use that land for their uses. Same problem for any school property, they have first dibs on their open spaces and can close it off for the good and protection of their students.
    There are some old timers who can go on, and on, about the problems with trying to use school recreation facilties and battling with school officials. So a school rec facility is not the same as a community rec facility.
    Another thing. Many community meetings ago when someone suggested that the kids of this neighborhood go to Harry Thomas for their rec needs someone pointed out that the HT kids are territorial and would jump the kids from the NW side of North Cap. So they couldn’t use HT. I don’t know if there is a similar dividing line with NY Ave as there is with North Cap. but someone should find out before suggesting kids cross the road of death.

  4. The reason SC needs to be torn down, besides the condition is that it was build pre-crack like Meridian Park. They would never build anything today (especially for low income or public use) that allows for lookouts and contains the approach of the police. I think some the articles on SC alluded to the people being held captive by gangs. Kennedy Rec is the almost the exact opposite in terms of design controlled access, no real hiding places etc. Post Crack public development.

  5. Scottac-

    Not even keeping crack in mind, although crack=bad, any 35/40 year old low income building needs work.

    My building in Alexandria was built in ’64 as rental housing for military families, and promptly turned into the home of every hooker in the city (as I was told by a cab driver). Went condo in 74.

    There has certainly been maintence work over the years, but generally until the current crazed economic boom, the residents simply didn’t have a lot of cash.

    So 40 years out, we are paying absurd sums of money on maintenance and repair. There is an intrinsic roach issue, and generally, all the problems of a large building.

    Add the “unique” attributes of Sorsum Corda- drugs, violence, and active attempts at destruction, and subtract the financial stability that my very working class building had, and you have a physical plant that has to be destroyed.

    Redesigning it for better security is something they very much need to do as well.

    My building is on a secuirty kick, and we don’t actually even have _crime_, much less crime the way the SC people have crime.

    And the worst part of a lot of the SC stuff is that the people being victimized are the parents, siblings, grandparents, cousins and extended families of perpetrator…

  6. The Impact of Gentrification on the Elderly: I would love to know where and how elderly residents figure into all of this. Has any serious consideration been given in terms of what percentage of Section 8 housing will include elderly residents? How about wheelchair friendly doorways, safety rails in bathrooms and lower light switches etc. for any remodeled or new housing?

    Gentrification in Shaw has been particularly devastating to elderly residents in this community. Unfortunately, the stress of having to deal with issues of displacement increases the likelihood of heart attack and strokes and other life-threatening situations. I know personally of a case where the senior was being pressured by her wonderful, new neighbors to make changes to her property and ended up having a stroke.

    Unfortuantely, Emmaus Center for the Aging, which serves seniors living in the Shaw community, is experiencing an increase in elderly citizens facing evictions etc.

    If you know of a senior in the Shaw area of D.C. who is overwhelmed by the process, please have them contact Emmaus Center for the Aging at (202) 745-1200.

  7. Jennifer,
    I think you meant to post on another topic. Actually you posted this also in another (it is so off topic there is has been deleted). Did you mean to post to the Section 8 posting?
    As far as seniors and older folks go stairs are a pain in the butt. My great-aunt in SE has been doomed to the 1st floor of her house because she can’t manage the stairs. My recently retired aunt & uncle stay in the 1st floor bedroom of their 2 level house, also because of stairs.
    As I stated in my Section 8 posting, my grandmother lives in Section 8 housing, in apts specifically for older people. Her living and sleeping quarters are all on one level so she doesn’t have to struggle with stairs. The older houses in Shaw are multilevels and require going up stairs to get in and out and around. They tend to be thin too, not allowing much room for a walker or wheelchair. Even the larger remodeled houses I’ve seen have hallways that are too thin and stairs sometimes too steep.
    Seniors’ best bet would be the newer senior housing around Shaw. The Church for All People’s are to build senior housing over by the Shaw metro station and I gather the Golden Rule II senior on the other side of NY Ave is available.
    Renters of all ages are facing evictions. Owners of Shaw housing who rent are investors, not social workers and their main thing is to get the most out of their investment, and at times that means selling or raising the rent. That is the risk of being a renter.

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