Dear PoP – “plight of 11th and Monroe Park NW continues”


“Dear PoP,

The plight of the park at 11th and Monroe, NW continues. Despite the mayor’s pledge at a public community meeting that there were funds to renovate the “drunk park”, these funds have disappeared and have been shifted somewhere else. Why does the city continue to turn its back on the citizens of Columbia Heights? Drunks and children don’t mix. It’s just a matter of time before real tragedy happens in that park. Friends of POP: please contact the mayor’s office and let them know “no more drunk park.”

The emails for contacting the mayor’s office are:  [email protected] and [email protected]

We’ve been discussing issues with this park for a few years now. Does anyone think that issues with the park have improved over the past few years?

61 Comment

  • Let’s be frank. If the long time black and Hispanic residents won’t push this–out of ennui, ignorance or resignation to voicelessness–then some yuppies agitating won’t make a difference, either. The only way it will change is if a little black or Salvadoran girl is molested by one of these smelly clowns who roam that area sleeping an vomiting. Yuppie parents have options and will just steer their children away from the place, per usual.

    • ProfChris,

      Well intentioned comment but offensive. I am hispanic and have plenty of options. So do the dozen of my well read, well educated hispanic friends. People without options are typically the uneducated; the poor come in all colors, ethnic and racial backgrounds.

  • I did notice the number of people at the park seemed to go down after their last “clean up the park” push, but the past couple of weeks it’s been back to normal. I walked by there today with my dogs around 1pm and there were no less than 30 people at the park. DC doesn’t have loitering laws, so unless the police see them drinking they are powerless. I have seen people drunk and drinking on their way to the park, then throw the drink away before entering the park. I’m not sure what the solution is here, other than any time anyone sees people drinking there please call the police.

    • today was a particularly busy day. lots of guys with beer cans in bags.

      i actually saw a new one: a 64fl. ounce screwdriver cocktail, served right fresh from the tropicana brand container.

      it is very disappointing that the police stop by for a few days straight, then disappear for weeks at a time.

  • I’ve never had a problem there when I’ve taken my three-year-old. The drunks have always been very considerate and moved away from the playground equipment for as long as we’re there. Way I see it, it’s their park too.

    • there is a sign proclaiming the illegality of alcohol on the premises. so it is not their park if they are drunk, and consuming alcohol.

      and if you are comfortable with your three year old sharing a playground with unfamiliar drunks who have only previously moved out of your way for you, and to date have not made an incident, let me be the first to tell you you don’t *have* to be.

    • you see unaccompanied adult men lurking in a children’s park as ok? and you’re a parent? I give you maybe 2-3 years before you see an incident that will curl your hair. My kid was 5 years old and old enough to play while I read the paper when I realized that the weirdo men in DC parks are perverts who like to hang around children.

      I knew one drunk guy who never set foot in our playground who first hinted that was the case. He refused to hang around kids because he was trying to pick up the ladies walking on the sidewalk.

      Here’s what I’m going to ask you to do, continue on as you want to, but when your kid until they’re 5-6 years old. Then see how the drunks act around a child when the parents aren’t right there. Get a good look at what really goes on Pollyanna.

  • I live a few doors down from that park on 11th St. I have two young sons. We’ve been here for more than seven years. The park has changed somewhat in different ways over the years, but has it gotten any BETTER? Absolutely not, at least not significantly. Yes, the homeless men who hang out there are usually polite – but not always. While nothing horrible has ever happened to me when I’ve had my kids there (which isn’t often, sadly), I’ve had a number of uncomfortable interactions and seen a number of things I wish I hadn’t.

    I’ve been part of a few “take back the park” playgroups over the years that have met a few times then seemingly disbanded. While it pains me to say it because I wish I could let my kids go down there on their own (something that I would feel fine about at a number of other city parks around here if they happened to be on our block) I have come to believe this park should be shut up or paved over and closed permanently – or at least for the foreseeable future. I think the basic problem is that there are too many other parks that don’t have the same problems (or at least, don’t have the problem to anywhere near the extent of Trolley Turnaround Park) that are also within walking distance. If I want to take my kids to the park, I can walk over to 16th and we can go the library in Mt. P after or we can go a couple blocks over to Raymond Park in Petworth. If this was the only park around, then maybe we could get people together to properly “take it back.” But since there’s no strong incentive to do so, I wish the city would just shut it down.

  • @sheepprofessor You are kidding right? “their park too?” That park belongs to the entire community; Drunken adults don’t belong on a playground with toddlers – period. If you can’t use the park without endangering other members of the community you lose the right to use the park.

    @Farrar Unfortunately if the city shut down this park without some actions to curb drunken public loitering, the drinkers would just move somewhere else. Perhaps the parks where your kids currently play.

    Until this people in this city decide that this kind of behavior is not acceptable it will just move from one place to another.

  • First they came for the drunks…

  • @ Rat King… DIAF, that wasn’t ironic-funny.

    • If you were trying to tamper down what he was saying, you probably shouldn’t have told him to die in a fire (unless, of course, you were trying to be ironic/funny)

  • Why don’t we just designate it a drunk park? Hell, we can ship the drunks from all over the city there. Then every other park we can designate a kids park. Sounds Win-Win.

    You have to start leaning on and embarrassing the police. You have to call the police every time you see a can of alcohol. The 911 people are notorious for not passing on information to the police, so you have to follow up at the ANC meeting. We have got some of the best police patrol right now in our neighborhood because of the noise people make on the list-serve. A couple of reporters follow it as well. The one thing the police fear is the news story saying they are not responsive.

  • RaggedDog said it right: the solution is simple, but takes time: CALL THE COPS EVERYTIME you see illegal behavior that you want to change. If the cops show up often enough, things will change.

  • @ Rat King…that WAS ironic/funny

  • just pass a loitering law and enforce it. there sure a lot of dumb politicians in this town. turn everything over to the feds again and clean up this friggin city!

  • We had some similar issues at the park on 14th and Girard. Although we don’t have playground equipment. It was horrible to walk by in the summer cause people were just openly drinking, gambling and making a scene in general. Two things happened though. 1) the community fought against the corner store 15 feet away who were illegally selling singles. Once that stopped a HUGE drop in public drinking occured. (the store eventually closed down cause they hadnt paid rent in a year and the landlord took them to court) and 2) DPR renovated the park. Shutting it down for 6 months kind of hit the reset button on some ongoing issues. But the best thing they did was install a security fence that gets locked up everyday at dusk. This has definitely helped. Don’t give up on your park! But maybe look at some things going around the block. Is there a corner store close by? Can you get them to stop selling singles? Good luck.

  • I can’t believe anyone actually takes kids there! I don’t even walk on that side of the street, since seeing more than I wanted to see when some guy was just standing (actually more like swaying) there taking a leak in the middle of the afternoon.

  • If you live near drunks, you share your nearby park with drunks. Why this shocks/outrages anyone is baffling to me. Try just seeing the drunks as a kind of object lesson in the imperfection of the universe for your kids. Probably more important than anything they’ll learn in Kindergarten.

    • that kind of apathy is why cities continue to decline: too many people willing to just shrug their shoulders and say “oh well, that’s the way it is in the city”. I’m guessing you either don’t live near the park or don’t have kids.

      What happens when the drunk park become a drug park? Then a drive-by-shooting park? Still gonna be so nonchalant about it?

      Would you feel differently if the drunks were urinating, passing out and puking on your front steps every morning? People have a right to expect to live in a decent neighborhood and constant public drunkenness should not have to be a part of that.

      • that kind of alarmism is why cities continue to decline: too many people willing to just shrug their shoulders and say “oh well, I guess I better move to the suburbs”. I’m guessing you either don’t live near Chuck E Cheese or want your kids to live in a sterilized fantasy land.

        • @NAB: for you info: I have always lived in the city and love living in the city. I hate the suburbs, don’t want to live anywhere near a Chuck E Cheese and I lived for years across from a park that slowly deteriorated in the manner I described. There was a small group of us that called the police and tried to make it better. Too many neighbors were like you and didn’t care.

          I don’t think taking an active stance in your community (ie: actually caring about your surroundings and the welfare of your neighbors) qualifies as beign “alarmist”.

        • In what way are the suburbs of 2009 a sterilized fantasy land? Where my parents live they have Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Jewish, Arab and three European national families. There are two WASP families left including my parents. Many cities in suburban Prince Georges County are majority black. Please tell me one single suburban neighborhood that’s “sterilized” and free of, let’s say, MS13. You are so hilariously ignorant I want to ask you what you plan to do in the 10th grade next year.

          Welcome to 1992 the suburbs are sterilized anymore.

    • Yeah, “George W Bush isn’t that bad a president” I’ve heard your “mission accomplished” nonsense before…

  • What happens when the drive by shooting park becomes a virgin sacrifice firepit park? What happens when the virgin sacrifice firepit park builds its own electric needle room without community approval? What happens when the electric needle room gets annexed by the 10th circle of Hades?

  • Dear NAB – “If you live near drunks, you share your nearby park with drunks.” That’s damn insightful. Oh wait, actually it’s not. It’s flat-out stupid, as is your “point” about what kids will learn from seeing the drunks.

    • So you don’t agree that drunks who live near parks will tend to go to said parks? I think we have some pretty clear evidence to the contrary.

      Oh, You don’t LIKE them being there? Who else do you not like being there?

  • NAB – Oh so you’re one of THOSE people. You know, the jackasses whose only purpose is posting moronic comments to amuse themselves and annoy people. Do yourself (and more importantly, the rest of us) a favor and find a new hobby.

  • there are going to be drunks and tragedies in colubmia heights regardless of any public project on the corner of 11th and monroe. hey nostradamus, enough already with the ominous warnings.

  • Farrar, I wouldn’t say Raymond is much better, but we are hoping it gets better soon.

  • Don’t feed the troll. NAB is just a troll, with won’t say anything worth listening to.

  • Here is a post from the yahoo group on the very same subject, guess this is what some would consider \enjoying a buzz in the city\:

    This morning, two of my friends took their three-year-old children to the park at the corner of 11th and Monroe, half a block from our house. While there, they were harassed by a woman shouting at the \Caucasians\ for daring to come to \our park\ and telling them to leave. I guess the fact that I’ve lived here for eight years and pay taxes still does not make me a real Columbia Heights resident in the eyes of some people.

    I have come to terms with the fact that I have to subsidize a hangout for drug dealers and the perpetually inebriated. But there are clearly some folks who spend all day every day at that park who are mentally ill. If we have to pay for the park, can’t we also pay for the city to provide better services for these unfortunate folks?

  • Did I miss something? Wasn’t this park just “renovated” a couple of years ago? They put in new playground equipment but stuck that truly awful fence around it. To me, that fence is the most scary part of the whole thing.
    I can understand the original poster’s frustration, but he or she is being a bit melodramatic. Given all of the economic development that the City has facilitated in Columbia Heights, you can’t credibly say that the City is “turning its back” on that neighborhood. If the DCUSA and associated development is what the City “turning its back” on a neighborhood looks like, I look forward to the City turning its back on Petworth.

  • I agree with Farrar’s sentiments. Perhaps the remedy is to change the balance in the park by having decent people spend some time there. If there were a critical mass of people hanging out in the park who were not drunks, I imagine things would improve. No one likes to get drunk hanging out with a bunch of yuppies. I propose establishing a regular meeting of the Columbia Heights board game club there.

    • I think this is a good idea, but I was involved in a situation where the “good people” tried to do this to stop the criminals and it ended up that the people who showed up were 100% white, young and bought their houses recently and the criminals were all black and had grown up on the block. Now, just to be clear, 4 out of the 7 guys in that crew are in jail. I am not wrong to call them criminals, they’re in jail. However the dynamic was not cool and one of their mothers complained that it was racially-motivated and financially-motivated, etc.

  • I live right next to this park and I get a little fed up with this notion that the fence is the problem. If it were not for the fence, this park would be invested 24/7. No one can hid behind it, no one can really climb over, so I don’t see why this would make it so undesirable. Maybe it could be a nicer looking fence like the 14th and Girard Park but I just don’t see the reasoning behind the fence being the issue. These same guys were there before the fence was put up and at least they have to leave when they lock the gate at night.

    You did miss something Marcus, the park as never been renovated in the five plus years I have lived here, just patched, cleaned up a bit and painted now and then.

    • I guess we can quibble over the definition of “renovated.” I know for a fact that that fence was put up at some point in the four years I have been in the neighborhood and if I recall correctly, it was supposed to solve the loitering problem that everyone is complaining about now. My problem with the fence is that it makes the park look like a prison. Even when the park is open it looks like it is locked down. If I had kids, I might venture into an open park that had some drunks in it because I could get out easily if I had to. But I would not venture into that park because of the way it is fenced in.
      At the end of the day, the loitering is a symptom. Maybe someone should do some investigation to find out where these people are coming from and why they end up in that park.

  • excuse me but isnt a park a place where loitering is supposed to occur?

  • There should be a law in DC that you cannot be in a playground unless you are with a child. Why cant these people go to 14th and Girard? It was just renovated as an adult park.

    I would be happy to attend a beat up the drunks day if anybody wants to organize that.

    • There is such a law in New York City after these kinds of incidents. It’s heavy-handed and lots of weirdos complain, but it’s not all that different from an elementary school. Should you, as a taxpaying citizen, be allowed to go into an elementary school unchaperoned? no. Then why not a children’s playground? Same difference according to NYC law.

      plus besides, I’m an adult man and a coach, I’ve never wanted to go to a kid’s playground while kids I didn’t know were there. why would anyone? roll around the why from your own personal perspective.

      You want to drink? go to a bar with adults. you want to drink cheaply? go hang out in your backyard.

  • In regards to the idea that if the 11th & Monroe Park were closed that the homeless men would just infest someone else’s park, I just want to say that I think this park is a particular problem because it doesn’t abut anything else – the park at 14th & Girard is by the community center, Raymond Park is by the community center and the elementary school and the park at 16th & Lamont is between a whole number of different invested interests, including the DC Park headquarters and a number of schools that regularly utilize the park. This doesn’t keep the homeless or the drunks and addicts out completely by any means, but it definately helps the atmosphere – at least on the two playgrounds. The park at 11th & Monroe has no nearby authority figures that can call the cops consistantly and no critical mass of non-drunk or homeless people using the park to change the dynamic. Nor do I think there can be. As I said, there are other playground options for kids within walking distance. And there are no compelling reasons for anyone else to be there. It’s not a nice enough space that you would want to be unless you had a 3 year old in need of a slide.

    I don’t think it’s dangerous to have my kids there when they’re supervised (just stressful for me because I never know when I’m going to have to confront someone or be confronted by someone, generally someone very under the influence). But just because I think it’s extremely unlikely that any of the drunks are going to assault my kids, that doesn’t mean they’ll watch their language, clean up after themselves, not sleep on the play equipment so my kids can play… and I could go on. It’s a city so I expect some of this and I don’t want to shield my kids from it, but to act like a grungy play park so completely dominated by older, homeless, drunk men is somehow acceptable just baffles me. I know they need a place to go, but it should NOT be a playground intended primarily for children.

    @David T. – I think Raymond Park is much better than Trolley Turnaround, though I have certainly called the cops on illegal behavior there many times. Generally the drug dealing teenagers playing dice on the stairs stay off the equipment, don’t scream slurs at us or swear under their breath at us, and are just less obtrusive. I almost never feel like they’re just sitting there watching us. Plus there are pretty consistantly actual, live kids there and if the atmosphere is uncomfortable, we can always go play on either one of the playgrounds belonging to Raymond Elementary if it’s after school hours – a couple of the teachers there have told me this is fine (and I see a lot of people doing it). I did notice in the fall that an increasing number of the sort of people we see at the 11th & Monroe Park were hanging out at Raymond – generally around the baseball diamond. I’m hoping that number stays low, but we’ll see.

  • I live right across the street from the park. A couple of years ago I emailed Fenty suggesting that the city consider installing WiFi in the park. I figured people might be inclined to grab a coffee at CH Coffee and wander over with their laptops. Seemed to me like a good way to diversify the park. Fenty’s team responded that they were working to establish city-wide broadband.

  • why not have a community wide effort in which ALL of the people from around the neighborhood come out to the park together and literally TAKE back their park. If the drunks see that there are so many people there watching out for each other, i’m sure they’d get the hint and slowly start leaving. Pass out fliers/post in blogs/ pass the word, i dunno??? Maybe my idea is dumb but it seems better than just complaining about it on the interweb :/

    • saf

      Because apparently there is a notable contingent who don’t want anyone except kids and parents there. So, “all the people from around the neighborhood” would not be welcome.

  • I share the concern about the park. I was walking by in November with my sister who was visiting my neighborhood for the first time from Boston. Not only did she get to witness the collection of foul-mouthed drunks and other derelicts who have commandeered the park but we also saw one of them exit the park and urinate on the side of someone’s front steps across the street! In broad daylight! Disgusting and not something I’d prefer to live near or amongst. Alas, we do.

    Here’s the problem as I see it: We live in a diverse neighborhood that will never be of one mind about this park.

    That diversity comes with lots of benefits and was probably part of the reason most of us chose to live here. That diverse population also comes with a variety of values. Most of us on this site probably share more values than not; but this site doesn’t necessarily represent all the members of Columbia Hts. Those hanging out in the park and their people — families, friends, whatever — probably don’t share all the same values as the members of this site.

    We define quality of life issues differently. We on this site don’t appreciate drunks, addicts, homeless and/or mentally ill folks occupying local parks which where we grew up were for kids and families. But, some of our neighbors are probably grateful for the park. They define quality of life differently: they have a drunk, substance abusing and/or mentally ill family member who, if it weren’t for the park, would constantly be underfoot at home. So, to them, the park gives that troubled family member some place to go; gets them out of the multi-generational, multi-family home and gives the rest of the family some peace. These folk are not likely to EVER join any effort to “crack down” on the park since that would just make their lives more difficult, returning the drunk to their home.

    I’m not saying that this justifies the presence of such folks in the park. I maintain that their presence is inappropriate. I just don’t think we’ll ever get “the community” to join in any collective effort to change that park. So, politicians and law enforcement will likely shy away from the issue viewing at the a cultural clash rather than a real problem. Sigh.

    • Very well said – and a valid point. The real problem is that we have lost all the places “down by the tracks” for this inevitable collection of people to go hang out. When I was kid they used to be in Georgetown! When I moved to CH in 1986, they congregated/lived – 30-40 at any time of day – in the empty lot that is now the metro station and Kenyon Square Apartments. It is a tough situation. There are always going to be messy lives around – so where do we “put” them? And before the usual snippy responses – yes, I agree not a playground – so where?

      • Excellent points — true there will always be “messy lives” — and if they are lucky for enough to have families and a place to live, those families are glad to not have them at home 24 hrs a day. But having groups of drunken adults with the resulting disorderly behavior and public urination are not conducive to a livable neighborhood. DC will not reach its potential to be a really great livable city when parks and public spaces are held hostage. Not sure what the answer is though.

  • This park in particular is designed for three things. 1. Fighting 2. F**KING and last but not least, 3. Drinking.


    This is a picture of the booze from one trash can in that park at 9am on a Saturday. Every other trash can had beer, vodka and/or Mad Dog as well.

  • First the sociology: I’m a 38 year-old Latino and the father of a four year-old girl. I grew up poor in a Latino neighborhood in Miami not unlike the pre-gentrified Mount Pleasant. That past is still with me in a variety of ways. Today, I have greater social and cultural capital: I earned a Ph.D., and I’m a professor at a local university. I speak to my daughter exclusively in Spanish. I live on Harvard Street in Adams Morgan, but I bring my daughter to Trolley Turnaround whenever we visit Sticky Fingers. We are usually the only ones there.

    Some thoughts:

    –DC should ABSOLUTELY emulate NYC and prevent single men from entering playgrounds. This is a public safety issue. (Plazas are the place men, women, and children–for everyone–to hang out in; their relative absence in DC and its social effects are matters for another conversation.) With Trolley Turnaround, the immediate effect would be to empty the playground of all but the scant parent/caretaker-child visitors. In terms of relaunching the park, this is a necessary first step.

    –DC should raze the play structure and tear up the surface and refurbish both a la Stead Park ( In other words, it should install modern, cool-looking playground equipment that will offer a visual clue that something different, something potentially positive, is happening here. Good design, combined with other things (see below), is essential for the change people want to create.

    –The city, residents, and business owners should “Jane-Jacobs” the park: That is, it should be integrated, as the neighborhood’s showcase parent/caretaker-child space, into the mixed-use fabric of the neighborhood. CHeights Coffee, El Rinconcito, Red Rocks, and other businesses (including African American-owned ones) should sponsor the park and encourage its clientele to use it and participate in clean-up days, etc. Community organizations should do the same. And parenting groups–Farrar mentioned this–should continue organizing group events at the park in concert with all of this, including birthday parties, school trips, etc.

    –The city should encourage the responsible development of the amazing building on the southeast corner of 11th and Monroe, just steps from the park. I don’t know the particular history of this building–is it empty, abandoned?–but its responsible development is clearly crucial to any endeavor with the park. Needless to say, the ground-floor space is perfect for a local market/grocery (imagine a Timor bodega, only bigger, there:, while the units above, with a mixture of market, workforce, and low-income apartments, would go a long way toward attracting new, potentially invested residents to add to the density of civic-minded inhabitants. (Numbers, in other words! What this park needs, like so many other urban spaces, is greater numbers of the civic minded, allied across a spectrum of race and class.) Rescuing the building on the southeast corner would probably, in the long run, be the biggest agent of change.

    I will continue to bring my daughter to Trolley Turnaround after our Sticky Fingers visits. We will be the ones playing make-believe games in Spanish, drunks or no drunks.

  • Tony, wonderful, thoughtful comments and I agree 100 percent with everything you say. I’ll add that one of the biggest structural problem with the park is the gradation — having a concrete wall around a below-grade space is the first (and most expensive, alas) problem that needs to be solved, because it really does remove the park from the flow of life around it. If the concrete walls were removed, the park would have an entirely different feel — even the fence would be fine, if it started at ground level, it is the fact that is starts so high up that is the problem and that is what makes it feel prison-like, a feeling other parks with similar fences don’t share. But if that is fixed, if some modern, attractive playground equipment was installed, and if the horrific rubber surface was replaced, that would make a big difference. All of that will take money, which, I am NOW hearing from the city, may be there after all — getting very mixed messages, which says to me, it is CRUCIAL that all of us with an interest in the park keep emailing Mayor Fenty, the DPR, and CM Graham asking for action in pushing this project forward. The mixed and inconsistent messages on funding are frustrating, but also a signal that the public pressure may be having a positive impact.

    As for that building on 11th and Monroe, unfortunately that is the Hope 7 project, and the former developer is now in jail. That is by far the biggest lost opportunity in the area, 11th Street is blossoming and that would be very attractive housing with ground floor retail. But between the development climate, the legal issues due to the developer being in jail, and certain impossible-to-uphold (fiscally speaking) promises made by the crooked developer to the former tenants of that building, from what I understand, there are just tons of obstacles preventing the gut renovation the building needs. Such a shame. If the city could get involved to push development forward, it would be wonderful, but I’m not sure what the city can even do … the history and potential future of that building would definitely make for an interested POP expose …

  • New2CH, thanks for the kind words. Yes to your comments about the gradation. That would make a world of difference. And your insight on the Hope 7 project is very interesting. Agreed that, in this climate, it would be a tough sell, and that’s not even getting into the legal issues. Wow. What a missed opportunity that would be.

  • I moved about 10 houses down from this park around 9 months ago and have never noticed any problems. Sure, there are guys drinking by the park, but I haven’t seen/experienced any problems. I see police patrolling 75% of the time I walk my dog and every instance I see a bicycle cop they ask my how I’m doing.

    After reading this post and another on PoP regarding the park from 2008, my main problem now is knowing some of the commenters on this post are my neighbors. I hope to never speak or run into the intolerant, racists, nosy busy bodies, petty, name calling people. ever. I’ll take the drunk guys over you ANY day.

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