Dear PoP – Loitering a Big Problem at the at Firehouse, 14th and Newton St. NW

Lechery & Indifference, originally uploaded by J Hutchins.

Ed. Note: I didn’t have a photo of the firehouse at Newton so just picked a random one from flickr. Regarding the firehouse at Newton, I too have seen random people hanging out and setting up a small portable bbq and wondered if it was sanctioned by the firehouse.

“Dear PoP,

I wanted to raise the issue of loitering in front of the firehouse on 14th and Newton streets, as it’s caused a great deal of frustration for the residents of Newton and certainly beyond. Those familiar with this spot know that there used to be benches in front of the firehouse, a beacon for all types of characters. Generally, these people are unruly, intoxicated, offensive and pretty insensitive to anyone around. Jim Graham had the wood benches removed last year, but the cement structures of the benches remain, and now the regulars have taken to bringing their own furniture in the form of lawn chairs, desk chairs, etc. It’s easy to write these folks off as “homeless”, however, it’s become pretty obvious that they do have homes. They park cars along the curb of 14th St. and blast music; if it’s nice out you bet they’re grilling (that’s right they have a grill and meat to cook), and after they leave the entire area is a disaster. Trash is left everywhere as well as items that apparently aren’t worth holding onto.

We started by contacting the firehouse. The gentleman who was apparently in charge, asked if we were referring to “Bumfest”. That’s right, this is a civil servant. The obvious indifference to members of the community and apathy towards the situation outside of the firehouse is pretty frustrating considering we care about our neighborhood. Most of these firefighters are from other states, and seem to care less about the immediate community. Councilman Graham has expressed repeated frustration to his constituents, but there’s no loitering law in DC, and police claim they can do nothing.

I find it hard to believe that if my friends and I decided to congregate on the sidewalk and grill, start fights, curse out passersby, puke, and trash the area, we wouldn’t be punished in some way. It’s really embarrassing to have the first site visitors see on your street be a group like this.

Does anyone else in the neighborhood share my sentiment? We’ve contacted the non-emergency number close to 10 times now, but the problems persist. Please make the community aware of this issue, I really want to offer these people an alternative.”

114 Comment

  • We all know well that if people look a certain way the cops will stop them and talk to them but if they look another way MPD will not do that. I remember group house parties I went to in the 1990s where the cops busted them up due to noise, yet we walked out and there were what I now know are drug crews with boom boxes (this was almost 20 years ago) making as much noise as MPD drove past them doing nothing.

    I long forgot those incidences until recently.

    From talking to him a lot this year I believe Jim Graham really is interested in stopping this but has limited resources available.

    What would be the reaction to a community group built on getting these petty criminals arrested and cleaning up our neighborhoods? Would people here be part of that or would you call it fascist?

    I don’t think any of us could individually walk up to those crowds with brooms and push them off the sidewalk, but a group of us could. One person putting up flyers on street lamps about acting civilized and humanely in a city neighborhood would take forever, but a group of us pushing one message could.

    Otherwise it’s time for the Guardian Angels.

  • There may not be loitering laws, but there are laws against blocking sidewalks, being drunk and disorderly, fighting and littering. The police, if they so choose, can address those problems. Getting them to “so choose” is a different matter altogether.

    BTW…i find the description of this as “Bumfest” kinda amusing. Most likely, the firemen are no happier about it than you are, and their attitude is more an expression of their own frustration. They don’t have powers of arrest, so, like you, they can’t do too much about it themselves.

  • I’m not familiar with this particular spot/issue, but I think the ‘general’ answer is that you need to reclaim the space for the neighborhood.

    Best case scenario, you organize a cleanup and then work with the firefighters to transform the space into something that is not desirable to those hanging out – install planters filled with flowers, convince the firefighters to hang out outdoors during the peak ‘problem hours,’ play classical music, etc.

    Just calling 311 is never going to stop the problem as long as the physical space doesn’t change.

  • Do what I did when I lived on Newton and Brown in the 90’s set up a sprinkler and leave it on. You can BBQ when its pouring rain… and they won’t bring an umbrella.
    MMM has a good point too. We did this on Brown…. use up their space, block their space, make there space unusable, make their space uncomfortable…. fences, planters, trees, sprinklers on timers, kids playing, a bike rack to two, oh and video taping them.
    Submit the video to local TV and WaPo along with a letter to the precinct head… this embarrassment tactic worked well we had two crack houses busted on the end of Brown and Oak with this approach.

  • Why don’t the firemen just turn their sirens on for 10 minutes at a time? It’s perfectly legal, and it will get those people off the sidewalk quick.

  • I live on Newton St., NW. Your fellow residents and I have been trying to address this issue for well over 2 years. Councilmember Graham, the DDOT and Chief Rubin are all aware of the problem. However, no one in the DC government seems to know who is responsible for removing the concrete blocks in front of the firehouse. I think their removal would go a long way towards helping to stem the loitering/crime problem. We also had the city plant trees on the street hoping that by sprucing up the area we might discourage loitering and other illegal activity.

  • I have often found that the best way to handle these kinds of service problems with MPD are to follow the following steps:

    1 – Document with times, dates, pictures, patrol car #’s of officers who respond.
    2 – Attend the PSA meeting (for 302 it is tonight at Harriet Tubman Elem, 7pm) and voice concern there.
    3 – If the problem still is not resolved then attend the monthly CAC meeting at 3D headquarters on V street. The CAC meetings are for those issues that are not getting the support they need.

    Always email [email protected], [email protected], and sometimes include [email protected] if your really frustrated and let them know what you are experiencing, as they want to know.

    Resently, I have noticed a visible change in policing in 302. More quality of life issues are being addressed. For several years were were working on a problem similar to this one at the corner of New Hamprshire and Georgia Ave, and it seems to be resolved in the last 2 months (finally). Police are being more agressive with crime in the park at 11th and Monroe, and I can’t even begin to tell you what a great job they have been doing with the Park View rec center, another multi-year problem spot.

  • I like John’s and SG’s suggestions. Also, of course the cops can do something about this behavior. Littering is illegal and BBQing with an open flame on a public sidewalk has to be illegal (why are the firemen not all over this?), and the cops should issue tickets for these infractions. Nothing changes behavior faster than a hit to the wallet.

  • Sprinklers – brilliant!

  • This is as good a venue as any to ask a long-held question. When you see drug dealers, how do you know what they’re dealing? I’m not buying or anything, but I always wondered if you have college kids approaching corner dealers looking for weed, and being all embarrassed because that guy only has crack…

  • A man played bagpipes in the McPherson Square park and it drove every one of the bums and ducks away.

  • The firemen do their grilling and hanging out behind the station. How can we convince them to move their recreational down-time activities to the 14th/Newton corner, thus displacing the bums? You think if we offer to buy them a summer’s worth of steaks and charcoal? Firemen are often very good-looking, and would have a similar beautification effect as flower boxes without the added expense.

  • “The obvious indifference to members of the community and apathy towards the situation outside of the firehouse is pretty frustrating considering we care about our neighborhood. Most of these firefighters are from other states, and seem to care less about the immediate community.”

    HUH??? That is an absolutely absurd comment. Feel free to retract. Are you saying that firefighters don’t care about the community? Ridiculous. Is it their job to clear these lowlifes off the sidewalk in front of their firehouse? You don’t think they have something better to be doing?

    By the way “bumfest” is hilarious and sounds accurate.

  • As a fellow Newton-ite, I share your frustration with the corner drunks. This spot has been problematic for as long as I’ve been on the street, benches or no. I always liked the exercise of counting the number of Popov vodka bottles that got generated (and left on the ground) in any given evening. It’s sort of emblematic of what goes on.

    I don’t think the firefighters really could do anything about it, however, and don’t really deserve criticism — they are emergency responders, not law enforcers, and I don’t think the best use of their time is either (a) subjecting themselves to potential civil rights lawsuits by moving folks along or (b) playing hall monitor at Bumfest. I’m guessing they are just as dismayed about it as we are and would help as they could if someone above them ordered simple, practical steps to address the situation.

    Would love to see the cops crack down on that spot, however, and maybe it will happen as the Allegro and some of its ground-floor retail generates a little more foot traffic — and interest — in that thoroughfare. Strikes me as these guys are ripe for drunk and disorderlies, misdemeanor possession (one dude is always blazing up right there), or harassment charges. And when they have the cookouts, I’m thinking events on public property without permits are good reason to break it up.

  • Actually, I don’t believe that general littering in DC is illegal. The applicable anti-littering law was challenged successfully in court. Apparently the only littering law currently enforcable is when litter is thrown from a vehicle and that act can be ticketed as a moving violation.

  • Establishing a Guardian Angels chapter in this town is long past due.

    Short of that, if you take a dump in a 5-gallon bucket for a week, and then spread it all across this plaza, I can promise you that there will be no more loitering there.

  • UGGH, I detest Bumfest! I walk by this social abomination every day on my way to/from work. Each day the same pathetic herd of dilaphidated street urchins & hustlers waddle around trashing up the street in various states of sloth and inebriation without any regard for the rest of the neighborhood. I LOVE sloth and inebriation just as much as the next transient vagrant but this slice of urban americana has got to go.

  • All most of you do on this site is complain. How about you house these bammas instead of typing hard through the internet about your frustrations. You want people to “go”, because they’re not like “you”. Classist, Racist, probably sexist too. Matter of fact, most of you are all the ‘ists in one shape or form. I’ve been reading this website for years and that’s all you do – COMPLAIN.

  • I am a new resident of Newton st, and have already learned that the Newton st alley is a horrible place. I believe the everyone that hangs out in the area uses the alley as a urinal, and it stinks of piss 24 hours a day. I have seen people drunk, loitering, littering, looking into parked cars, looking into houses, etc at all times of day and night. I have also reported this to the local precinct but apparently they wont do anything about it.

    I feel unsafe living there, and don’t sleep well as I am waiting for the day that someone attempts to get into my house or car.

  • In response to “God,” these complaints are not racist, classist, or sexist. There is nothing racist or classist about asking people to respect their neighbors or not to litter. It is basic communal decency, which is an overarching requirement for society. Not littering, regardless of your race or class is common sense. Not pissing in public regardless of your race or class is common sense. Not harassing people regardless of your race or class is common sense.

    I am black, and I think that minorities should go above and beyond to clean up and respect their own neighborhoods to make them safe and healthy places to live and raise children.

    How is that in any way racist?

  • I lived on Newton for a couple years and now live around the corner, been here over 5 years and the “bumfest” has been going on the whole time… when the old Giant was where Allegro is now, it was probably even worse and they used to slang’ the rock at night from the corner and hide the junk back on Newton. (It’s amazing what you see when you pay attention). Part of the problem is the half-way house across from Newton Hall, there are a couple people with some psychological limitations, but I also know a guy that lives in there (he’s a great mason if anyone is looking for one, did the retaining wall of the big red house next door)

    I was told that space is actually designated a city park, which is f’ing ridiculous.

    As I recall, that corner is/was supposed to be part of the streetscape enhancement, and I thought the removal of the concrete was part of it. Now if Graham’s office didn’t tell you that, either they don’t know or the plans have changed. Although I did notice that the trees were planted this Spring (on Newton). Ironically they threw away the trees that were planted at kenyon and park and planted new trees on Newton. Any sane person would have transplanted those trees, but let’s not hold our mighty government to too high of a standard.

    The worst part about bumfest, is the pissing behind the support piling… just wait until August when all that urine gets into the humidity, f’ing nasty. Hopefully, they fill in that opening with block when they tear out the benches.

  • To God.

    It’s not a means of complaining, it’s a means of problem solving, and part of that is sharing ideas. Sometimes it’s nice to know you’re not the only one who cares. Not to point out the obvious, but you’re complaining.

    Some of these suggestions are great. Anyone with interest in meeting there regulary, maybe bring dogs and freaking everyone of these folks out?

  • I’ll affirm what everyone else is saying about this spot. They should get rid of any semblance of seating out there, and the firefighters should really get out there and reclaim their turf. The alcoholics and loiterers will surely give way when faced down by several angry firemen with access to large axes and high-pressure hoses! I like the siren idea, too. They should “test” a siren every few minutes, aimed inthe direction of the problem area, ha ha.

  • anon 11:46:

    You really shouldn’t lose sleep over your car. Re-up your insurance, get a club, and leave nothing in there. Get burglar bars, make sure you have a sure way to get out in case of fire.

    Also, Get out and find something enjoyable about the ‘hood and you’ll feel and sleep a lot better. A can of brooklyn lager at red derby or a slice of pete’s and a few humanizing conversations with people on the streets will improve your outlook right quick.

  • Personally, I never felt physically threatened by these dudes, but it is ridiculous how they use this spot for all sorts of unsavory activity and then leave behind their mess.

    And yes, “God.”, I do complain. I prefer, however, to think of it as issue-spotting that hopefully will rise to some level of collective action when enough other like-minded people get on board. We aren’t discriminating against these people because of race, class, etc., but because the collective routinely trashes our street, harasses our wives and girlfriends, and teaches our kids words that we’d rather not be in their vocabulary. None of these are immutable characteristics of the people, and none of their activity that is identified in this post meets the community standard to which I — or really anyone I know — aspire.

  • In the interest of focusing on solutions, let me offer a couple of upcoming resources:

    1. Regarding community cleanup, there is one scheduled — Saturday, July 18, beginning at 10 am. Several community organizations are coordinating/participating, including the Northwest Columbia Heights Community Association, the North Columbia Heights Civic Association and the Tivoli North Business Association. They have already taken it upon themselves to divide up the area, and I believe there are multiple assembly points, including Columbia Heights Coffee for the group that will focus on 14th Street between Irving and Spring. (Tivoli North will assemble at 14th and Spring and work their way north to Shepherd.) All are VERY welcome, and any of those associations has more information on its Web site.

    2. Regarding crime reduction, Neighborhood Watch is coming to Columbia Heights! Northwest Columbia Heights Community Association will be doing its first block-captain training Monday, July 20; more information on their Web site at They have citizen-focused strategies for reducing just this kind of unsavory activity. Again, all are encouraged to find out more and to participate — block captains will be needed for every block in Columbia Heights.

  • God. You’re absolutely right. The those people aren’t like me. Bumfesters prefer to chuck their crap three feet away from a proper trash recepticle in the hopes that someone else will take care of it; I go out of my way to prevent my trash from choking the sidewalks of my new neighborhood. Bumfesters harrass my female friends (who now refuse to visit my ‘sketchy’ neighborhood) and threaten my male friends just because; I take pride in the relationship I have established with the members of my neighborhood. Finally, Bumfesters get drunk, buy/sell/take drugs, and make poor decisions all day that degrade the lives of their families and the general community; I put in 50 hours a week at a job I hate so that 30% of my paycheck can support their parasitic habits. In which case, yes, I’m as ‘ist’ as the come.

    Wake up, Wake up, Wake up, its the first of the month…

  • I’m curious about “Bumfest”. It sounds so bizarre. What is their attraction to the firehouse as opposed to some random corner or a park?

    And why do the fireman tolerate it? The handful of firemen that I know surely would not (through legal deterrents or otherwise).

  • I am strongly against gentrification, but it happens because “neighborhood” people, in this case minorities, fail to set a standard for themselves and cannot attract direct investment. It’s a long an lengthy argument with many fingers to point, but here is a quick clip from Boyz in the Hood which explains it pretty well:

  • Does anyone know the actual street address for the firehouse? I’m thinking of printing out and mailing a copy of this discussion to them, as well as to Jim Graham.

  • “I am strongly against gentrification.”

    That’s like being against the changing of the seasons. How can you be “against” a natural market force? How would you stop it? Create laws against people of greater income than the average in a community buying a house there?

    For the record, I am against recessions.

  • Why is it horrible for some folks to drink outside, piss outside and leave trash, but for others it’s a-ok? Every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night (and sometimes other nights) I witness young, white people littering, drinking, and pissing in the alleys next to Wonderland. It doesn’t really bother me much, just as things like bumfest don’t bother me much. However, it’s telling how selective the outrage is on this blog.

  • “Create laws against people of greater income than the average in a community buying a house there?”

    That would be a decent start. What we really need is elimination of the idea of “greater income”.

  • Still chuckling about being against gentrification. So I googled “Stop Gentrification.” The very first hit was this hilarious item:

    “…What can you do to make sure your neighborhood isn’t rampantly developed, you ask?

    Easy — just you make your hood as crappy as possible. That’s right, throw trash on people’s lawns, pee in the parks, chop down the trees and find some prostitutes to hang out on the corners. Rob the liquor stores, knock kids off their bikes and start little fires in alleys.”

    Stop gentrification! Let bumfest continue!

  • Mr. T,

    Medic Unit 11 – Truck 6 – Battalion Fire Chief 4
    Emergency Medical Supervisor 4-5
    4th Battalion
    3420 14th Street, NW
    Washington, DC 20010
    For nonemergencies, call: (202) 673-3211,a,3,q,526088,femsNav,%7C31511%7C.asp

  • Ah, OK, Anon. So you’re a communist. No point in continuing the discussion, then. G’day.

  • guys, just ignore the idiots like “God.” who come on and try to redirect the debate. this is about loitering.

  • There are public intoxication laws. police enforce them frequently around 3 am in Adams Morgan

  • Littering, urination, noise, drinking on sidewalk by “bumfest” = bad.

    Littering, urination, noise, drinking in alley by Wonderland patrons = okay. or at least not complained about.

    The selective nature of complaints around here is telling.

  • Ahoy !


    Don’t spend 50 hours of your awake hours a week at a job you hate. Life is too short.
    Find something in life that you truly love to do (piracy excluded); find anyway on earth to make a living doing it even if at lower pay; and you’ll never work a day in your life !

    On this thread’s subject, our city’s reasonable loitering and vagrancy laws were completely done away with in the 1970’s by the ACLU lawyers, their fellow travelers and rights of the accused zealots, who tenaciously defend all manner of behavior that undermines civil society and brings us further down in lawlessness and disorder including the right of the drug dealer, look-out, prowler, or criminal hanging around on the corner alley at 2 AM when he’d be sleeping if he had to go get up in the morning and go to work or school.

    Reformed Somali Pirate “Tantum Eruditi Sunt Liberi”

  • I love Reformed Somali Pirate, even when he doesn’t take his meds. 😉

  • Pirate, don’t forget the customers who do often have jobs or school in the morning, but are up late to get their merchandise.

  • @[email protected]:37

    I live very close to Wonderland. There is no comparison between the level of illegality that may accompany Wonderland patrons at 2:00am and what goes down every day at Bumfest. Bumfest wins, every time. The insinuation at the end of your post is not very charming but it is telling.

  • Anon 12:37 – Are you placing a complaint about littering, urination, noise, drinking in the alley by Wonderland? If you are, I think you should place the complaint with the business or ANC, rather than complaining about the complainers on this site.

    University of Bumfest is a public nuissance, and if you read the origin of this thread, it was by someone who has already gone through the formal complaint process.

    The selective nature of your thought process is telling….

  • Nick, I too live near Wonderland, I think I will start taking photos of the reprehensible behavior that occurs near there three to four nights a week.

  • If we had the same amount of people filing reports with 311 (ANC Reps, MDP, DC Gov’t, ect) as we do commentor on PoP, Bumfest would cease to exist.


  • “There may not be loitering laws, but there are laws against blocking sidewalks”

    Incommoding? Good luck on that one. 3 or more people continuously blocking the sidewalk forcing people to go around/walk in the street? Doesn’t happen.

    “being drunk and disorderly,”

    Not a crime in DC unless you’re a danger to yourself (i.e. dead drunk/walking into traffic). Being loud and boisterous in the middle of the day? Not a crime either given the context of the area.


    A PC misdemeanor for sure, but are these guys really fighting or just scuffling?

    “and littering.”

    Nobody is getting locked up for littering. The cop would be an asshole to do so.

    “The police, if they so choose, can address those problems. Getting them to “so choose” is a different matter altogether.”

    Depends on what is going on and what an officer sees at the time. We can do lockups for POCA/possession/simple assault/disorderly conduct/public urination but we have to have PC to arrest someone. The best solution is to work with DCFD and neighbors to reclaim the space and then call MPD if the issues persist.

    “And when they have the cookouts, I’m thinking events on public property without permits are good reason to break it up.

    HAHAHAAHAHAHAHA. Good luck getting a supervisor to sign off on that one.

  • angryyoungman – can you start hangin out at 14th and Newton? Bring enough booze with you to share with the rest of the gang.

  • I live next door to the firehouse on 14th and Newton (the Allegro) and the first time I saw this, I too, wondered if it was somehow sanctioned by the fire department. The people who loiter there have never been rude to me or said anything appropriate so far, but it just seems odd that they would set up a grill as though that area were their own backyard. I don’t particularly mind it too much, but then again, I’m rather new to the area, and I haven’t yet seen any egregious use of that space as a lavatory, or seen too much litter on the street. Reading these posts, however, has me feeling a bit more concerned that this is a larger issue I should be wary of as a young female resident.

  • PoP and Original Poster,

    I can add that I share your sentiments about the type of folks who hang out there. My girlfriend lives in the apartment building directly north of the firehouse. I’m at her place nearly 3-4 times a week. I don’t get a good vibe when I walk by those folks by myself and hate to think of my girlfriend walking by alone and late at night.

    So yes, I can feel your pain. These people need to go. It doesn’t seem like they do anything there except for cause trouble. I’d like to see them moved along.

    My girlfriend has mentioned she gets hassled when she walks by there. Catcalls, whistling, and that sorta thing. It makes no difference the time of day, someone is usually there.

  • A few thoughts:

    1) Yes, the original poster sounds quite whiny. The comment about being embarrassed was particularly irksome. Looking past her delivery, however, one must not associate clean neighborhoods with gentrification. Petworth, Columbia Heights, and other working-class neighborhoods were clean and safe when first constructed. Cleanliness and safety are not exclusively white, affluent characteristics. To assume so is quite racist in itself. The ’68 riots took a serious toll on the area, from which these neighborhoods have not fully recovered. By returning them to their original glory, are we necessarily harming society? Is it our civic duty to maintain the post-riot way of life?

    2) How big are these concrete blocks? A $30 sledgehammer could take out a jersey barrier in about 30 minutes (well, down to the rebar, at least). I can’t imagine that DC DPW has the only equipment capable of removing the blocks. Take some initiative. The firefighters would probably enjoy helping. Load the rubble into an SUV and haul it to the Ft. Totten transfer station for free…or better yet, recycle it into countertops or foundation filler.

    3) I don’t see why residents can’t throw their own street party as the OP suggested. Call it Resfest and take over the space. Blast Coldplay, grill portabello mushrooms, let the kids run around, and set up one of those back yard golf practice systems. Bumfesters wouldn’t want any part of it. If someone called the cops, what would they say? “Oh, white people?! I thought you were calling about Bumfest. Yes ma’am. We’ll dispatch all available units to take care of the problem. Sorry for the disturbance.”

  • Can somebody please post a pic of Bumfest? I don’t see anything wrong going on in the picture that accompanies this letter. (Is the guy on the bench loitering?)

  • Are you saying that firefighters don’t care about the community? Ridiculous.

    I can say with absolute authority that I’ve spoken to both fire department and MPD who don’t care about the community. I have had multiple MPD people ask me why I don’t move back to Maryland. I have had fired dept employees smirk and talk about how “certain people” won’t ever change as in they don’t care to do fire safety outreach to them.

    Like many DC employees if you asked them if they cared about their constituents they would say yes. If you developed a scale for what you yourself would consider caring about one’s community and asked them questions about it you would likely find that they fall short of your definition of caring. That has been my experience.

    For instance, I took my kids to a fire department open house where they made fun of certain classes of people because they don’t want to learn about fire safety. undoubtedly they see the dregs of humanity and they don’t see the best families because we don’t fall asleep smoking a joint (The cause of a local fire).

  • Call the police on bumfest every day.

    Ask Jim Graham to have the property declared a nuisance property.

  • “Littering, urination, noise, drinking on sidewalk by “bumfest” = bad.

    Littering, urination, noise, drinking in alley by Wonderland patrons = okay. or at least not complained about.”

    You must be kidding. Have you really EVER seen wonderland patrons litter (other than cigarette butts), urinate, or drink in the alley? I am sure it has taken place in the history of that establishment, but I challenge you to post a picture of someone who is obviously a patron of wonderland (e.g. not simply in the alley behind wonderland) doing any of those things.

    Wonderland is actually a legitimate business. They don’t let people leave with drinks. They don’t tolerate fighting outside. And Wonderland actually cleans up the sidewalk every day around their premises. Does “bumfest” do that?

    So we’re down to noise. I’m afraid your “selective comparison” is only selective because you can’t tell the difference between people smoking cigarettes outside a bar a few hours a day, and people who are actually causing an ongoing problem.

  • Seriously, a pedestrian can litter all they want? This city is AWESOME!!! Does anybody know the city council’s addresses? I’ve got some “decorating” to do.

  • Boomhauer’s use of the “we” in discussing making arrests implies he’s a DC police officer. If so, the rest of his post speaks volumes.

    also, littering in DC is a civil offense subject to a fine, unless it’s done from a car, when it becomes a traffic “moving offense.”

  • Folks want MPD to be doing more proactive work to prevent violent crime, yet these same folks want to use MPD to babysit “bumfest” to try to catch a person in the act of littering?


  • Neener — I’m sorry that you’ve had a few bad experiences with a couple of firefighters or former firefighters. I am also sorry that you have chosen to project that experience on all the rest of them. sad. have you forgotten 9/11? (kidding)(i was serious about the first part though).

  • Bumfest is a great name. Makes it sound like Lollapalooza for bums.

  • While I am not assigned to that firehouse, I have worked there many times and know quite a few of the guys who are assigned there. This has been a problem for 10+ years. The guys of Engine 11, Truck 6 and BFC 4 have had to deal with this day and night just as the local residents have. I know they have tried a ton of things to end this, and trust me, I would have been run off after most of those. Some of which people have mentioned above, but nothing has worked. I understand people suggesting firemen reclaiming the area, but it wouldn’t work. As soon as they fired up the grill, they would catch a run and someone would finish cooking and eating their dinner for them. We do appreciate WDC’s compliment on beautification though. Also, if they hit the siren, there would be complaints about that. There have already been complaints about the outside vocal speaker, the siren would annoy everyone in the neighborhood except the people it was aimed at. As for firemen living in other states, yes it is true many do live in other states. However, many, including myself, live in DC. Saying we don’t care about the community is ridiculous, we don’t do it for the money, I don’t know any rich firemen. We love our jobs and a large part of that is WHERE we do our job.

  • Counter-program a “Hipsterpoolza” on the corner – let the Red Bull flow and the “cornholing” commence – and watch the disgusted older fellows with their BBQ slink away dejected.

    True, attracting hipsters to your corner is like solving a roach problem by releasing 100 toads inside your house, but I can only solve one problem at a time.

  • Put an Arby’s in there!

  • Anonymous 2:31 PM – somehow the city manages to collect $67 MILLION in parking tickets (that’s for 2008, but we can do better for 2009). Clearly they know how to enforce some of the laws…

  • Can somebody please post a pic of Bumfest? I don’t see anything wrong going on in the picture that accompanies this letter. (Is the guy on the bench loitering?)

    The caption accompanied with the photo said that it’s NOT from 14th and Newton, so no, that guy is NOT one of the loiterers!

  • That firehouse is downtown on 13th st. That guy is a fireman.

  • “Anonymous 2:31 PM – somehow the city manages to collect $67 MILLION in parking tickets (that’s for 2008, but we can do better for 2009). Clearly they know how to enforce some of the laws…”

    I don’t understand your argument. Meter maids do parking tickets. You want meter maids to babysit bumfest? I don’t think that’s permitted or appropriate.

  • Maybe a speed camera at 14th and Newton would get a cop to hang out there more…

    I think this speaks volume of government in this city and in general… $93M in revenue but spent $74M in overtime and its no wonder why local, state, federal governments are broke…

  • Lacey – you got it… doesn’t look like they are jammin’ yet.

  • To answer an earlier comment’s call to take out those ‘benches’… I have a sledgehammer and pick axe to go at the concrete blocks. Who’s down for a sledge party? (Ideally someone can bring a stereo and we can get it started with… of course… “Hammer Time”)

  • Anon 3:57 – “I don’t understand your argument. Meter maids do parking tickets. You want meter maids to babysit bumfest? I don’t think that’s permitted or appropriate.”

    Try some lateral thinking here. MPD doesn’t have time to write all those tickets, so parking enforcement does. As much as everybody hates them, PE is really good at what it does (raise money for the District). Some states have a department of environmental protection which goes after litterers. I don’t know if DC has a DEP, but it must have something like it. I agree with you in that MPD should focus on curtailing violent crime. That doesn’t mean other infractions should be ignored.

  • Whoa there!

    Let me sum up what I’m reading here. A bunch of young professionals (who mostly just moved to town?) are suggesting blasting sprinklers and Coldplay and classical music to get rid of people of color who have made one little intersection their own? On a street full of shiny condos and new department stores, I am HAPPY somebody is blasting hip-hop and BBQ-ing outside. The yuppies have unwittingly stolen most of the neighborhood away in the last 5-10 years. Now you want to actively, aggressively steal away this one little intersection? With sprinklers and classical music? Seems pretty blatantly racist and classist to me, not to mention you must have a very very boring idea of what a neighborhood should look like.

    If you’re a yuppy who decided to move into DC and are totally shocked that people occasionally get drunk and curse at you in the street, I beg you to move out to the suburbs and let DC and Columbia Heights alone.

  • Jack:

    Perhaps you should invite them over to your place…

    FYI, I’m not white, nor am I a “yuppie.” And no, I just didn’t move to town, been here over a decade.

    Thinking like your is what has commended DC guys children (mostly black and latino) to growing up in a litter strewn, pee soaked, crime infested, open drug market with substandard services and schools.

    You sir, are a pendejo…

  • Jack, that’s completely asinine. The whole “if you don’t like lawlessness, trash and noise, move to the suburbs” argument is specious. Anti-social behavior is anti-social behavior anywhere, and if we’re going to get out of this endless sprawl, auto-dependent suburban model of national development, the cities have to be made livable for the middle class. I don’t care if they’re white college frat boys partying all day, I want that corner under control, and not a Lord of the Flies-type environment. I’ve lived in Columbia Heights 7 years, and DC for many more.

  • Its been discussed before, but I would classify the guy who “sells” stuff at the corner of Monroe and 14 (1 block from Bumfest) as “loitering”. Blasting uncensored DMX at passers-by is no way to build up the neighborhood.

  • Jack, you don’t have better expectations than that for your neighborhood? Lots of non-yuppie neighbors are disturbed by this behavior and have been trying to do something about it for over 10 years. Please get off your high horse.

  • Okay, everyone needs to chill out. Wanting our neighborhood to feel safe and welcoming is not racist. The other night I walked by and a man was holding a woman down on the old benches and kissing her until she was able to push him away – pretty sure that’s sexual assault and could certainly escalate to something worse. Regardless, this gathering spot is bad news and makes people feel unsafe – and I would like it to go away.

  • Jack for the win! Finally some common sense in this thing!

  • Thank goodness there are generous souls like Marion Barry & Jack to constantly remind me what a racist I am.

    Keep up the good work.

  • Let’s assume for a minute that the yuppies are able to classical music and sprinkle the “bums” away from that particular corner.

    Don’t you think they’ll just pick another corner to hang out on?

    What people here really want, and it’s disgusting, is for anyone not like them to simply vanish from the earth.

    Rationalize it all you want, but that’s the truth ruth.

  • Not white, may possibly be a yuppie, and love hip hop music. If people are outside BBQing, playing music, drinking etc I’m generally okay with it. But public puking, drunkenss, urination, and littering is not cool – you need to respsect yourself and your neighborhood and surroundings especially when it is public land.

  • There is a difference between cool urban neighborhood character and lawlessness, litter, and harassment. For example, there used to be a group of older guys who would hang out near my street, blaring Otis Redding and similar music, on weekend mornings, but they were always gentlemen (didn’t verbally assault passing women), weren’t drunk or high, and didn’t leave behind a mess — none of the new, white, yuppie residents minded them one bit — in fact, I was pretty bummed when they stopped hanging there (due to a previously vacant property being developed, I think) as I missed my weekly Redding fix. It is no doubt a challenge to find a balance — no one wants Columbia Heights to simply be an amalgam of generic chains and cookie-cutter condos inhabited by lawyers and gov’t contractors, but no one deserves to have their streets constantly covered with litter or their homes graffiti’d or to be harassed by drunk and stoned dudes aggressively pandhandling or shouting about women’s butts. Isn’t there a lot of room in the vast middle ground between these extremes for a neighborhood with character but without nuisance crimes?

  • Anonymous (sounds like DCDireWolf?) said: “What people here really want, and it’s disgusting, is for anyone not like them to simply vanish from the earth.”

    If you define “anyone not like” me as people who litter, urinate on the street, curse loudly at passers-by, and sexually hrass women, then YES, we do want them to disappear from the face of the earth. If you define “anyone not like me” as law-abiding people of all origins, ethnicities, religions, etc, then no, that’s not what we want here.

  • I too live on Newton. Why don’t you instead of hammering down the benches, actually begin to enjoy them yourselves? We have no right to say who is allowed to hang out there or not, especially if it is designated a park area. The people that do hang out there have caused me little to no issues, and in fact I believe you are all jealous that they have reigned in the territory. The firemen have countless times given water to a homeless man who particularly is on this corner a lot, and I thank them for not turning their heads at someone in need.

  • Bumfest serisouly needs its own T-Shirt.

  • I’m going to invite the “bums” from “bumfest” to Columbia Heights Day in August. Clearly they’re misunderstood and the community needs some healing here.

  • Well said, Mr T!! Lawlessness, trash, noise, and public indecency should not be tolerated.

    Jack – Expecting respectful behavior in the public sphere and cracking down on those who don’t use basic decency is not racism or classism. That’s an old, tiered excuse and it doesn’t work here. The color of skin and income-level of the individuals trashing this corner and making residents feel unwelcome or fearful in their neighborhood are irrelevant. I would argue the one guilty of racism, classism, (and throw in ageism just for good measure) in this forum is the one spouting off with obvious disdain for newcomers and ‘yuppies’. Racism works both ways, but in your case it appears its just a one way street.

  • “Why don’t you instead of hammering down the benches, actually begin to enjoy them yourselves? We have no right to say who is allowed to hang out there or not, especially if it is designated a park area.” Anon 5:05, 5:17…etc, etc

    To begin, as many others have mentioned, it is a urine soaked, trash strewn mess, and I spend enough time cleaning the my own block that I don’t need another group of people to clean up after in order to chill outside.

    And you are wrong. As citizens have every right to say and expect that those not respecting the laws and disturbing the peace cannot continue to behave as so without consequence – and ESPECIALLY because it IS a designated public park area.

  • NO LOITERING LAW IN DC???? maybe it we had one, the cops could change their focus away from giving parking tickets!!!

  • We are not wrong to ask our citizens to be responsible. However; we live in an urban environment.

  • The Firehouse should have a thrice-weekly testing of the hoses/Pressure washing the sidewalk. If the times are random enough, I don’t think anybody would hang out too long. Use lots of soap so everything is kinda sticky for a while after. And it wouldn’t smell like pee.
    In Massachusetts, we had open container laws. If we had that here, that would slow things down a bit. Loitering in a city like this seems impossible to stop. People hanging on the corner is part of the DC culture, like sitting on your porch.

  • We need some railroad tracks. Bums need a place too.

  • The space to loiter needs to be obliterated to begin with. Probably when the firehouse was built, someone had a grand idea that there would be a ‘community’ space but this is what happens when you try to do something nice like that.

    Someone way above mentioned taking pictures and I have to say I agree. I am an amateur photographer. I don’t take photos of people, I prefer still-life subjects, but without fail since I moved to DC, I ALWAYS get harassed by some guy who thinks I’m taking a photo of him–even when I’m facing a different direction and not holding my camera up to my face! Most loiterers in this town have a huge aversion to being photographed. I’m not sure if there is some history behind it, but I suggest the firemen go out there and aim a camera lens at them and watch them scatter.

  • Let me sum up what I’m reading here. A bunch of young professionals (who mostly just moved to town?) are suggesting blasting sprinklers and Coldplay and classical music to get rid of people of color who have made one little intersection their own?

    Jack, you willfully misread that and it’s insulting. If you want to be a jerk, you’re being a jerk, but either way your analysis is just wrong.

  • I’ve been reading this website for years and that’s all you do – COMPLAIN.

    then you really don’t know what you’re reading. We are organizing for action outside of the internet including calling the Council and police. No one should be, as you suggest, “a bamma” and they should be eliminated from society- that is they have no right to do what they do and they need jobs to take them out of “Bum” status. To suggest that a class of people be allowed to turn themselves into drug addicted brain mush is racist in the extreme- the result of such an attitude has created South Central LA’s gang problem. In LA the refrain is, “How does society allow our young black men to get involved in drugs without the government doing anything about it?” This is how.

  • Can someone offer an explanation for why doing nothing would be good for anyone involved? The final sentence of the original post seeks an alternative for “bumfest” party-goers.

    Nobody wants cookie cutter, neighborhoods can have style without being a dump. That said, I don’t expect every house/yard/etc. to be tip-top, but at least have some pride for your neighborhood, and even more important yourself. For those that are accusing people of -ism’s, you’ve missed the point. I’m sure you all would really hate life if you had a nice neighborhood.

    I’ll keep contacting the council, councilman, police, and fire department. I’d be happy to lend a hand.

  • “Jim Says:
    July 9th, 2009 at 2:19 pm
    Boomhauer’s use of the “we” in discussing making arrests implies he’s a DC police officer. If so, the rest of his post speaks volumes.

    also, littering in DC is a civil offense subject to a fine, unless it’s done from a car, when it becomes a traffic “moving offense.””

    What about anything that I wrote is wrong/inappropriate? There are two issues that I have with your post:

    1) Everyone thinks that they can be the police and that they know the law when, in fact, they don’t. People rely on what they learned from the movies and TV, or what they see in their jurisdiction and apply that to the unique beast that is DC. Sit down and read Title 22 of the DC code and you’ll have an idea what MPD can lock folks up for. Then kick back and read Briefs of Leading Cases in Law Enforcement for a vague outline of case law and untie the Gordian knot that is SCOTUS case law. Then think about how much time and resources a POCA arrest will take and how that’ll affect police coverage as a whole in your district. Now top that with constant radio calls and calls for assistance.

    Now I’m not saying that I think quality of life crimes are a waste of time or that officers shouldn’t address these issues if they happen to see them, but are the police going to make a big show of arresting a few guys hanging out and grilling some food if they aren’t really causing much of a ruckus? Probably not because 90% of the time these guys aren’t doing anything wrong. Should they arrest people doing something blatantly illegal if they see it? Yes. But consider that the community would be better served with a 10-8 scout car than one posted up there for a shift deterring guys from grilling and hanging out.

    2) The problem here is that there are some folks with legitimate concerns hoping to use MPD as a blunt tool to solve a problem that could be resolved via the fine tool of civil society first. Even if you lean out the district commander to fix it, a few arrests for POCAs and possession aren’t going to solve the problem. The guys will be back out on the street a little poorer and a little more pissed off. Go out and at least try to take over the spot for a bit and see what happens.

    Now on a personal note, I don’t like guys hanging out drunk and being a nuisance because I live in Columbia Heights too, but given enough time and community involvement the problem will be solved on its own.

  • Boomhauer Boomhauer Boomhauer…

    I am a longtime writer on this board, but switched to anonymous because I’m going to talk about my dealings with criminals.

    When the drug crew wrecked havoc on my block I sat and talked to the Police Lieutenant and we worked out a plan. When they were all together on city property (doing nothing that would require a 911 call) I would call him. I did. He ROUSTED them for suspicion of vandalism. He handcuffed them, searched them, read them the riot act and when two of the guys spit on him, he arrested them. The others he let free. From that point on the crew shrank from about 7-10 people to 4 core dealers because the other guys, the lookouts and the hangers on, didn’t want to mess with the police. Justice was served and while 4 of the guys were, as you put it, “back out on the street a little poorer and a little more pissed off” half a dozen other guys were not.

    Another way is this:

    So while Title 22 is Title 22, creative cops know how to enforce community standards.

  • “community standards”.

    no one agrees on what these are. you can state til you are blue in the face that law, order, peace and stability are the community standards, but it’s quite clear from the actions of many in the neighborhood and from many in government and police, that a different “community standard” carries the day around here.

  • 12:03, I won’t argue with you. What I’m saying is that we will carry the day.

  • Call it what you want. Blame racism, blame classism, blame hipsters, black drugs, blame fire fighters, blame MPD, blame yourselves. The basic issue, regardless of identity politics, is that the behavior in front of the firehouse, and in the surrounding alleys is illegal.

    It is illegal in front of the firehouse, it is illegal in front of Wonderland. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing Coldplay, Bach, or Lil Wayne. It doesn’t matter if you’re littering 40s or Evian. It doesnt matter if you’re pissing from a white or black johnson. It’s all illegal.

    The fact that the offenders are low income doesn’t make it any less illegal. The fact that they are harassing or offending “yuppies” doesn’t make it any less illegal.

    Stop trying to shift blame, and just focus on the actual activity.

    For the record, I am a young African-American professional who works for an environmental NGO, minored in African American studies in college, and am such a big fan of hip hop that I write a hip hop blog. Believe me, from a purely academic standpoint, this is not a racial issue.

  • It’s not a race issue, but it is a cultural issue.

  • You stupid white people have these blogs up to talk about your “neighborhood”…it’s not your neighborhood! You move in here with and complain about stuff that was here before you. Columbia Heights was the hood for years and even though you’ve made things look different, it’s still the hood for those of us that are from here. Behind your stupid gardens and shops we still live in crime, gangs, drugs and violence. You have no idea what we go through, no matter how much “community” work you do. Go move to a white neighborhood! For years we were happy that you all stayed in Georgetown or VA suburbs…we were given a chance to build up our hood ourselves and help our own people. Even though it was a very, very slow process and even if we failed it was still ours. Now gentrification has ruined Columbia Heights. What’s done is done and there’s no changing it now but just know that the people you pass on the street hate you. We laugh at the stupid community meetings, clean ups, and bars like Wonderland and Red Derby. You’re so interested in learning about the history of Columbia Heights and what new buildings are coming, and what Jim Graham is up to….can you tell me which corners where the most dangerous for the last 20 years? Which gangs have come and gone? Which organizations/businesses have Columbia Heights residents relied on for years? Who are the residents we all remember? What was Malcolm X park like before? Were did the Puerto Ricans and Dominicans move to and why? It may seem like negative things to want to know about, but you know what,….this neighborhood has more negative history than positive and until you understand that you can’t really be a part of it. We remember how before nobody would ever come here unless they lived here…we would go days/weeks and never see a white person. Many of us are glad when you get robbed/stabbed and when you get frustrated with things here. You’ve changed (ruined) so much here that you deserve even a little of the headache you’ve caused us. Now go ahead and delete this post or comment all about it…but you know the truth.

  • To Columbia Heights

    This is one of the more ignorant posts ever, in fact I’m surprised you’d even waste your time on such a positive-minded blog. Having been born in DC and growing up here, I have no hesitation to call you a hate-filled bigot. It’s a shame that you feel comfortable being such an asshole. Have fun hating your life and everyone around you.

    Redemption is one of the more amazing stories in life, and there’s a chance for that in this neighborhood. Why would you ever be glad that someone would be robbed or stabbed? Man, it’s really got to suck when dilapidated homes, forgotten about blocks, and empty storefronts are replaced by honest and hardworking individuals with inspiration to make something of themselves and a neighborhood. I honestly don’t understand your resentment, your words are hateful and uninspiring.

  • Yes, Columbia Heights, that was a racist, self-indulgent piece of hate-filled garbage you posted there. It’s YOU who are ignorant of the history of the neighborhood. It wasn’t always “the hood”! Prior to the 1968 riots, going all the way back to the early 20th century, it was a thriving residential and commercial center. Do you think they would have built the grand Tivoli Theatre and now-demolished Savoy in a crappy neighborhood? The current renaissance of the area is simply the continuation of the way things were before the riots. The immediate post-riots to 1990 period was the real aberration here, not the current (or former) state. Redevelopment did not “ruin” Columbia Heights, it simply returned it to what it once was. In other words, grow up!

  • Please don’t delete Columbia Heights’ post. Odious as it is, it represents the (unheard) voice of a large segment of the local population. Perhaps the silent majority (silent re the “blogosphere”). You may not want to hear it, but it’s true.

  • Vagrants, drunks, rude litterers = very bad, and I wish the police would forcibly remove them from their “corner”. I just moved to this area, and I can’t WAIT until more of these people are priced out of Columbia heights (Yes, to make way for hard-working people who take pride in their neighborhood and property). It will take some time, but this area is cleaning up and it wont be too much longer until these people are forced to leave, because they wont be able to afford to continue living here by drinking and grilling all day instead of going to work.

  • let’s gentrifiy the mt pleasant 7/11 while we’re at it.

  • Uh, Anonymous 2:27, until Washington isn’t an extreme welfare state, criminals are going to have a very easy time “affording” to live in any neighborhood your elected officials choose, seemingly without any shame in their slothful, counterproductive lifestyles.

  • don’t worry the bums will leave from the firehouse and go to the new fountain at 14th St. and Park Rd. once it is finished. What happened to being tolerant of others and helping our fellow man in need, hypocrites. These guys we here alot longer before you thought it would be cool to move into the city. Maybe you should go back to the suburbs otherwise enjoy living in the city this is how it is get used to it. Councilman Graham you are the biggest hypocrite of all.

  • Here is an idea, if you don’t like it leave. Move west of the park, or to Virginia.

  • Based on the majority of the comments, it is apparent that most of you are newcomers to DC, my guess is you’re the group that decided to leave the Virginia burbs and attempt an emergence program of sorts, like moving into the ‘hood’, and then critiquing people based on your white elitist culture! Oh but lets not talk about the White college kids from GW, Catholic U and Georgetown that act completely out of control after a few drinks. They behave like idiots with no type of home training, stumbling into cabs drunk out of their minds! They hang outside of clubs or roam U Street like drunken fools, but the cops don’t say anything to them about disturbing the peace or being intoxicated in a public area. On the other hand, cops are locking young black men up in Gallery Place for merely holding conversations on a crowded sidewalk in front of Chipolte’s!!!

    Instead of acting freaked out about living in DC and having an I-am-superior-to-you attitude, why don’t you try being friendly. And if you are afraid of living around people of color get the heck out of DC!

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