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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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Tommy Wells Office Hours

Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells will have office hours on March 8th from 8:00-9:30am at the City Vista Busboys & Poets (1025 5th Street NW). This is an excellent opportunity to gain face time with both the Councilmember and his staff.

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Nominate BicycleSPACE for Livable, Walkable Community Awards

Please consider submitting a nomination at Councilmember Tommy Well’s website in support of BicycleSPACE (459 I St NW) for the 4th Annual Livable, Walkable Community Awards. The nomination period closes on Thursday December 2nd.

BicycleSPACE began participating and contributing within the community immediately after signing the lease early this year. Below is a sampling of their vast contributions:

  • Restoring an abandoned derelict building back into a productive use and drawing foot traffic onto Eye Street
  • Free Bicycle repairs before they opened for business
  • Organizing and Leading free Group Rides on weekends
  • Participation in tree plantings and trail improvement events
  • Attendance and participation at community meetings including the ANC, MVTCID, MVSNA, etc (Erik goes to more community meetings than I do!)
  • Sponsorship of community events such as NoMa’s Zestfest, WABA’s 50 States Ride
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Retro Bike Show in NoMA

Zestfest continues tomorrow (10/22) in NoMA with a Retro Bike Show plus the Badminton Classic & Outdoor Beatles Rock Band Tournament. It’s all free and BYOB so why not spend your Friday evening with other bike/rockband enthusiasts? Councilmember Tommy Wells is scheduled to appear as a guest judge. The event will be at the corner of 2nd and L, NE near Union Station. More details at www.zestfestdc.org.

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Precinct 143 Results

DCBOEE has published results by precinct as of 1:30AM. The precinct for much of Penn Quarter, Chinatown and MVT below K Street is Precinct 143 (Chinese Community Church polling location).

The results for Precinct 143 in the Democratic primary were Adrian Fenty (414 votes, 64.59%) over Vincent Gray (218, 34.01%) in the mayoral contest and Tommy Wells (393, 70.68%) over Kelvin Robinson (161, 28.96%) for Ward 6 Council.

Tommy carried similar results in the remainder of the Ward and won his election. Mayor Fenty was less fortunate citywide and fell to challenger Gray.

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The Mediocre Mile

Dave Jamieson of TBDonFoot recently interviewed our Councilmember Tommy Wells. In the exchange Wells labeled the stretch of Mass Ave NW between the Convention Center and Union Station as “The Mediocre Mile”.

Look at the area from Union Station to the Convention Center. All those new apartment buildings and it’s one of the deadest pedestrian streets. You can’t even figure out where the CVS is. All the amenities are inside the buildings. We’ve created an unsafe street with shortsighted development. The kind of development I’m pushing for is what you see in Southwest, with the Safeway opening up onto the street. There’s first-floor retail. You’ve got to have people put tables outside and create a safe community that way.

I think that hits the nail on the head. Ultimately I believe Buddha Bar, Subway Cafe and Sixth Engine make the 400 block with the CVS an asset rather than one to be pointed to as a failure. But on our grand corridors, like Mass and K Street in our hood, we need to start consistently holding new hi-rise construction to a higher standard in terms of how they interact with the public space. No more semi-circle driveways like you have at the Merdian and 555 Mass. We also need more ground floor retail.

[Read more...]

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April MVSNA Meeting

This month’s MVSNA membership meeting will be held on April 20th at 7:30pm in the community room of the Yale Loft condominiums (437 New York Ave NW). Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells will be the featured speaker.

The lastest edition of the MVSNA newsletter is available for download from Box.net.

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