Recap of Public Meeting for 2nd & Mass Park

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.

Next Steps:

  1. 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
  2. Mayor office to circle back to set up a progress report meeting, possibly by the September 17th MVSNA Meeting
  3. 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
  4. Cdr Hickson offered the idea of a park clean-up; he will have officers on hand as escorts
  5. 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.
  6. 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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Public meeting regarding issues at park at 2nd & Mass

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
·         Results?

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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National Night Out and 2nd/Mass Park

DC is gearing up for the 30th annual celebration of “America’s Night Out Against Crime” on August 6th. In addition to the numerous activities at the kickoff event, communities across DC – in all seven police districts – scheduled National Night Out (NNO) events during the late afternoon and evening hours.

Each year the Mount Vernon Triangle Community Improvement District (MVTCID) sponsors a cookout (and typically a bike ride) with MPD to support National Night Out. This would seem like a prime opportunity for Triangle residents to get face time with MPD to discuss their displeasure with the recent escalation of illegal camping, public intoxication/urination,  drug use, etc at the park at 2nd/Mass and H Streets NW. As the flyer above states, the event is Tuesday August 6th at 6pm at Golden Rule Plaza (1050 New Jersey Ave NW).

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Lux Lounge Closure

Reader Chris Chan sent us this photo of a posted closure notice on Lux Lounge (649 New York Ave NW). The notice is signed by Chief of Police Cathy Lanier and suggests reopening is contingent on an ABC hearing.

Generally closures of this nature are triggered by an incident. Anyone hear anything about an incident at Lux Lounge?

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Community Bike Ride Tonight with MPD

From the MVTCID:

Join your neighbors and MPD officers for a bike ride through Mount Vernon Triangle on August 3rd starting at 6:00 p.m. The bike ride will begin at 555 Mass, wind its way through the neighborhood, and end at Golden Rule Plaza for a free cookout with neighbors. This is a fun opportunity to meet our officers, talk to merchants, and bike with your neighbors during the National Night Out Against Crime.

This is a consolidation of NNO cookout and MPD community bike ride events from 2009 into one night.

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Traffic Advisory: Funeral Procession for Senior Police Officer

A funeral procession for MPD officer Frank Strother will travel through the neighborhood between 1 and 3pm on Thursday afternoon. Full details of the route and closures are included after the “Read More” jump. As an aside, this news does provide another opportunity to clarify the function of the 501 New York Ave NW building. Many area residents I talk to are under the impression it is a police substation. That is incorrect – it is a branch of Traffic Safety and Specialized Enforcement.

501 New York Ave NW

[Read more...]

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September DNA Meeting

From DNA President Miles Groves:

Please join us for this month’s DNA Meeting scheduled for Tuesday evening (9/8) at Calvary Baptist Church (733 8th Street NW). The meeting begins at 6:30PM with PSA101W followed by two discussion leaders. Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier is scheduled to be our first discussion leader. This is a great opportunity to meet Chief Lanier, ask questions, and learn more about the Chinatown Initiative. First District Commander Kamperin has also been invited.

Our second discussion leader will be Neighborhood Planner Emily Yates. Emily has attended many of our past meetings and is our contact for the Family Amenity Project. She will be talking about the Mount Vernon Square Study that recently started. This study includes land use consideration for several blocks on the northern end of our neighborhood. One of our interests with this study is the inclusion of green space for an urban park that we hope will include family programming (playground). There will be a public meeting on October 1st at the Carnegie Library that we need community support with attendance to make our concerns with the lack of family programming-space/green-space in our neighborhood. Emily will have more information on this meeting next week.

Please RSVP so we have a sense of how to set up the room, but please plan to join the meeting regardless of whether you RSVP. A meeting with Chief Lanier is a rare opportunity.

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MVT Community Bike Ride with Police this Thursday

The Mount Vernon Triangle Community Improvement District (MVTCID) has organized the second edition of the annual neighborhood MPD bike ride. The ride will take place on Thursday August 20th beginning at 6pm at 555 Mass, wind its way through the neighborhood, and end at Golden Rule Plaza.

While I’m certain MPD is fully aware of the prostitute congregation at the 5th & Mass pocket park those participating in the ride should use this opportunity to express concern directly to the officers.

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National Night Out ** UPDATED**

UPDATE [8/4/2009 2:37PM] I’m now hearing the PSA 101W NNO walk will begin at 7th & H at 6:30PM rather than Golden Rule.

National Night Out (NNO) is an annual event, sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch, that takes place on the first Tuesday in August. Each year, the Metropolitan Police Department actively participates in National Night Out by rallying community members throughout the District of Columbia to join with neighbors and police officers in their PSAs to be a part of this annual event.

I’m still trying to track down more hard specifics, but here’s what I’ve heard so far for NNO in the Triangle:

From Lt Royal:

“PSA 101 is going to do a walk from Chinatown to the Golden Rule building (1050 NJ Ave NW) for an ice cream social and then back. Starts at 6:30pm. Residents can use the walk to point out issues to the police”.

Additionally the MVSNA National Night Out group will meet at Safeway at 7:30PM.

UPDATE [8/3/2009 5:37PM]
From DNA President Miles Groves:

National Night Out is scheduled for tomorrow night, Tuesday, August 4. This year we start with an ice cream social at The Golden Rule Plaza located at 1050 New Jersey Avenue NW at 6:30PM.

Following this “meet and greet” social hour, Lt Craig Royal will partner with members of the 101W neighborhood for a community walk from Golden Rule along the K Street Corridor to Chinatown and back. Throughout the night crime prevention literature and discussions will be held for community members. It will be an opportunity to point out areas of concern along the walk as well as sharing other parts of the neighborhood that deserve greater focus. This is a great opportunity to meet with neighbors, walk the neighborhood, and discuss issues with police officers responsible for the downtown neighborhood.

This is an important way to show our support for our neighborhood police officers, so please try to attend.

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