A reader from The Sonata shared highlights on the meeting minutes from the recent public meeting on August 19th regarding the issues surrounding the park at 2nd/Mass & H. This is the park that recently has been referred to as Cobbs Park…
Members of the Mt Vernon Triangle met earlier this week to discuss the safety/sanitation/crime/homelessness issues at the park located at 2nd & Mass NW (sometimes referred to as Cobb Park). Elected Officials included representatives from CM Wells’s office, the Deputy Mayor’s office, and ANCs 6E04, 6E05 and 2C02. ANC 6E07 Alfreda Judd (who represents the neighborhood in question) did not attend.
All invited city agencies sent representatives (DPR, DHS, DGS, DMH, MPD). The television station WJLA, which has been following the story, sent a reporter to cover the meeting.
Residents complained about the increasing (and well publicized) incidents of public urination, defecation, sexual intercourse, prostitution, and general harassment in the area. Some residents also expressed concern about the negative tone of email listservs / blogs regarding the homeless and reminded everyone in attendance that the neighborhood should not be trying to criminalize homelessness.
Commander Hickson of MPD-1D talked at length about the homelessness issue and the fact that 50+ arrests have been made in 30 days (most for minor offenses open containers of alcohol).
Key points from MPD:
- He assured the neighborhood that no hard drugs are present – MPD is using undercover officers, surveillance. The packets that are being exchanged are synthetic marijuana, which is a major problem in the city at the moment.
- If an individual or a group is blocking the entrance of the building the Code states that officers have to give them the opportunity to come into compliance by issuing a verbal warning. If subjects then move along, there are no arrests made.
- Prostitution is a misdemeanor, but it has to be witnessed by the officer or an undercover officer. DC does not designate “prostitution-free” zones with signs anymore because the Supreme Court ruled against NYC on a similar issue, costing the city millions.
- Police can work with communities to combat prostitution through traffic enforcement. For example, 2nd and K St. NE has no right turns after a certain time of day, which makes it harder for johns to circle the block.
- Police are patrolling the park every 2 hours during the day and squad cars are clearing people out at night because the signs state “Park Closes at Dusk.” Police cannot necessarily arrest people for being in the park at night; they must ask them to leave and can ban them from the park in the future.
Representatives from the Mayor’s office discussed long-term solutions to the homelessness crisis in DC (such as affordable housing initiatives), but none seemed to address the critical issue at hand (both for individuals in the park and residents in the area).
DPR wants MVT residents “to be present in our parks,” and “use them” to discourage undesirables. That message, while laudable, seemed to fall on deaf ears for residents who fear for their personal safety and have experienced loud & aggressive harassment while walking in the vicinity.
The idea of creating a playground in the park was discouraged by DPR and had previously been considered and rejected by a parent’s group in the area due to the busy and complicated intersection of H and Mass.
- Residents should continue to call 911 rather than 311; that is the only way the police can document actionable upticks and send the appropriate respons
- Mayor office to circle back to set up a progress report meeting, possibly by the September 17th MVSNA Meeting
- Commander Hickson wants residents to learn your Police Service Area (“PSA”), attend PSA meetings, get on listserve, get to know the Lt. responsible for our area
- Cdr Hickson offered the idea of a park clean-up; he will have officers on hand as escorts
- Create a “Friends of the Park” organization. Use the park- have movies, yoga, community nights, and anything that establishes a community base in the park.
- ANC member requested a walk-through with DPR to clean up the park, fix crumbling concrete, paint, cleaning, etc and find budget to support a clean-up effort.
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Consternation over the safety/security/sanitation issues at the park at 2nd & Mass are ramping up exponentially since we first posted a note from a frustrated reader on July 25th. The downward spiral for the park was even recently highlighted in a WJLA TV news segment.
Residents of the Sonata condominium are rising to action with their concerns. They’ve scheduled a public meeting on Monday August 19th. The gathering will begin with a walk through of the park at 7pm followed by a meeting on the rooftop of 301 Massachusetts Ave NW.
Date: Monday, August 19th
Time: 7:00pm (walkthrough); 7:15pm meeting on roof at 301 Mass. We’ll meet outside the building at 7pm
Location: 301 Massachusetts Ave NW
Access: When you arrive, front desk personnel will assist with roof access.
Inclement Weather Location: TBD
Draft agenda for meeting is below:
I. Root cause of the recent change
· Homeless issue, crime issue, or both?
· If caused by changes at CCNV or closure of Central Union Mission – what is the city’s plan?
II. What has been done so far, and what more can the city do to help?
· MPD / DPR / CM Wells/ MVTCID / Mayor’s office/ DMH
III. What can residents and the community do to help?
· “Friends of the Park” Organization
· Landscaping/fencing/creation of a dog park or playground to give the public space a “purpose”
· CCTV to observe illegal activity
IV. Miscellaneous – open issues
V. Recap/ Next Step
The meeting invitation was sent directly to the Mayor’s Office, DC Council, MPD, ANCs, local residents, MVTCID, and city agencies such as DPR, DMH, DHS, and APRA.
As an aside – is this park really named Cobbs park? Or is this just another case of a Google Maps label convincing everyone that’s the name? Which seems innocuous enough… but in the past I’ve seen Google Maps label parking lots as parks and even label the MarcParc parking lot at 6th & K as a hospital…
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Streetview image of park
A reader recently sent in the following note to the blog regarding the park at 2nd/Mass and H Streets NW.
I live at 401/425 Mass, and pass the park in the mornings and evenings frequently… over the past month or two I’ve noticed an increase in the 24/7 presence of homeless people or other loiterers… It’s one thing to pass out on a park bench, but its another when there are 30 people sprawled out with coolers, BBQing on a grill, accumulating chairs, and this morning they are now putting up tents. People are passed out all over, wandering around yelling and clearly either on drugs or off meds, or camping out in large groups.
It has gotten to be ridiculous — the other day I was walking the dog with my girlfriend and there was a clearly mentally unstable person from the park who was screaming and shaking with his pants down all along the ground floor apartments of Madrigal Lofts… it has become an unsafe environment and every morning people commuting to work cross the streets and go around because they can’t walk through the park…
This would seem like something our new CID president should aim to address after she starts the job on August 5th.
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Calvary Women’s Services has moved Pathways for Women, and it’s other program that was housed on 5th Street, into a new building. We purchased and renovated a larger building at 1217 Good Hope Road, SE. The programs moved on November 30. To check out our new home, check out the photos on Flickr that you can reach through our website, www.calvaryservices.org.
The windows of the former Pathways shelter at the corner of 4th & Mass NW (317 H Street NW) have been boarded up this week.
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Street Soccer USA (SSUSA) in partnership with sponsors the Leonsis Foundation, HELP USA, the Washington Kastles, Nike, and Deloitte hosts the annual Street Soccer USA Cup for the homeless this year in Washington DC. From July 30 through August 1 teams of males and females from 18 cities across the US will compete at Washington Kastles Stadium at the future site of CityCenter DC (H & 11th Streets NW).
During the Street Soccer USA Cup, over 20 teams representing a variety of agencies (grassroots, city wide, and national homeless service providers) from cities including Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Sacramento, San Francisco, Charlotte and Washington, D.C., will compete for the Street Soccer USA Championship in fast-paced, 4 versus 4 street soccer action.
The event includes exhibition matches, live entertainment, and thousands of cheering fans and volunteers from the local and national communities. The festivities begin at 5PM Friday, July 30 with confirmed attendees including Mayor Fenty, Ted Leonis, Sheila Johnson, Mark Ein, and members from the Washington Freedom.
To reserve your FREE ticket, go to www.streetsoccerusa.org
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The below memo is from Merc Fox who is working with Martha’s Table to relocate McKenna’s Wagon away from it’s current location on 4th Street NW:
McKenna’s Wagon, a mobile soup kitchen that provides meals to DC’s homeless and undernourished, is currently investigating a location for its operation over the next 24-36 months. I will be working with the Wagon to identify an appropriate location in the general vicinity of Mount Vernon Square neighborhood.
Proposed locations include the following site in NW:
Gales School & Reservation @ 1st & G & Mass
City lot @ 2nd & New Jersey & I & H
City lot @ 7th & New York & K
These sites have been identified as a potentially appropriate site because of their proximity to similar homeless outreach services and distance from residences.
Please send your questions, comments, and concerns to Merc Fox at: firstname.lastname@example.org or Lindsey Buss at: LBUSS@MARTHASTABLE.ORG no later than April 15, 2010. Include your address. All correspondence is confidential and only for the purpose of final determination.
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In November Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) moved out of the CAAB building to relocate in SW DC.
Predictably the homeless have found the sunken patio a nice place to crash. In fact, my condo has a direct, if distant, view of the stairs that lead out of the patio. I can safely state that in this case it is a homeless transvestite prostitute.
So much for the claim by those who support Single Sale Moratorium exemptions that vagrants don’t drink Heineken. I don’t doubt they prefer Steel Reserve 211’s due to price but to suggest they wouldn’t drink a Heineken has always seemed absurd to me.
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Mount Vernon Square: Lifein MVSNA readers vent about the City Vista Safeway
H Street NE: Frozen Tropics reports that a new H Street shuttle service starts this month. The free shuttle will run between the Gallery Place station and the Minnesota Ave station each evening from 5pm until the Metro closes. Readers comment that the free nature of the shuttle could attract too much volume from the X2 line.
Citywide: WaPo’s Raw Fisher reports on new policies aimed to discourage homeless encampment in our libraries. New rules will prohibit sleeping in the libraries or carrying more than two bags into the branches.
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Kudos to the people who are spending their Saturday cleaning the trash off the empty lot at 4th and L. It looks like they’re doing a great job. But with nothing to stop people from using the lot to feed the homeless, why won’t their efforts be wasted?
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Last night a meeting to discuss the park at the confluence of 2nd, Mass and H Street was held. Attendees included, but not limited to, residents from the Sonata, a representative from the office building at 251 H Street, our MVT CID executive director Bill McLeod, president of the MVSNA Cary Silverman, Thor Nelson from the Office of Planning and Sarah Moulton from the Department of Park and Recreations.
The park is presently an under utilized eyesore. The heavy traffic surrounding the park isolates it. Homeless sleep in the park with one often camped inside the center ring of bushes. There was also talk of a recent illegal BBQ (by homeless?) at the park. The park is not well maintained, safe or inviting.
Funding is not presently available to perform a major overhaul of the park. Long term this could be negotiated with the developer seeking air rights over I-395 but improvements are needed in the short term. The Office of Planning (OP) has identified a transportation funds grant program that could provide the modest funding needed for small scale improvements including critical irrigation. With this intersection being one of the busiest in the city it qualifies and has the visibility to increase likelihood to receive the grant. However the grant will require that ongoing park maintenance is secured. If this comes together the improvements could begin as soon as October.
Rendering from Dept or Park & Recs (DPR)
The Department of Parks and Recs (DPR) has developed a set of design guidelines for the site. These cite the short term objectives for the park to be primarily beautification of the space and creation of a marker for the surrounding neighborhoods and the immediate area on Massachusetts Ave. DPR has also identified materials and plants that could be relocated from the Art Walk at the Old Convention Center site to keep costs down.
From the Draft document distributed by DPR:
Short Term Scenario Implementations Guidance:
- Provide a minimal, but bold planting pallet to be both low maintenance and highly visible to passing motorists.
- Focus tree planting on streets edges and in areas with significant soil depth.
- Install focal artwork or monument to create a sense of place and draw for the area.
- Provide benches and other seating to allow lunchtime gathering and passive use of the park
- Preserve existing pavement areas and repair where needed
- Implement “quick fix” pedestrian safety measures like: new cross walk painting, adding parking lanes to Mass Avenue next to park
Discussion turned more towards the homeless impact on the park. The Central Union Mission is opening a 150 bed shelter at the Gales School within a year just a block from the park. DPR’s position is that parks are an amenity for everyone including the homeless. It should be designed to be safe and engage all people.
Cary Silverman expanded upon his previous point of the Gales School shelter opening and pointed out that the isolation of the park is appealing to the homeless. He suggested the space needs a draw to bring surrounding residents across the busy streets to the park. There is no design for a prominent draw in the short term plans. An expenditure of a fountain or statue could be taken on longer term. A Sonata owner chimed in with the benefits of the park embracing dog owners. Dogs owners want green space to walk their pets and most presently walk to the Building Museum. She suggested the added benefit to the community that dogs tend to discourage vagrancy
“scare people who know they are where they shouldn’t be.” I don’t think she’s suggesting anyone shouldn’t be at the park. But people shouldn’t be camping in the bushes . McLeod made note of this as he said “durable grass”.
Lastly, an important message was put forth that this park would NOT be THE PARK for the Triangle. Both DPR and the MVT CID want a larger more central green space less isolated by heavy traffic. There are some alternative that are being studied regarding this but they were not shared in the meeting. One possibility I have previously seen in the Mount Vernon Triangle Transportation and Public Realm Design Project suggests a park along a new extension of 3rd Street built out over I-395.
Note: Cary Silverman has also covered the meeting on his blog. Cary is spearheading a “Friend of the (name TBD) Park” effort.
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