Dear PoPville – Protesting the De-funding of Georgia Ave Great Streets

Photo of ‘Park Rd. & Georgia Ave., NW’ by PoPville flickr user rockcreek

“Dear PoPville,

Your readers may be interested in an effort to reverse Mayor Gray’s decision to remove the remaining $1.44M from the Georgia Avenue Great Streets Project. This is an area, which includes the storefronts around Howard University that has receive countless unfulfilled promises for development and assistance over the years.

The Great Streets Project has a history of recouping costs through increased tax revenues in just a short number of years. To me, it just seems like another example of poor judgment from the Mayor’s office. There is an opportunity to change course, though. As the Washington Business Journal reports, “D.C. Council members Jim Graham, D-Ward 1, and Muriel Bowser, D-Ward 4, …issued a joint disapproval, delaying the funding move until after the council’s summer recess”.

What is Georgia Avenue Great Streets? Great Streets funds were set aside to improve the streetscape of Georgia Avenue including lighting, trees, bicycle lanes, traffic control, and sidewalks. The Lower Georgia Avenue segment, from Otis Place to Florida Avenue was never implemented and funding for this area has been moved to projects in other parts of the city. Mayor Gray has just proposed moving the remaining $1.44 million to a project in NE.

What does the resolution I’m signing say?
The resolution issues a strong and formal protest of the Mayor’s actions and requests a meeting with the Mayor’s office and the DC Department of Transportation to discuss projects that will benefit the residents and small businesses of Lower Georgia Avenue.

You can sign the petition online here.”

54 Comment

  • Vince Gray is terrible. Can we recall him yet?

    • you guys voted him in. Did you think he was actually going to do anything worthwhile with a campaign of “I’m nicer than Fenty?”

  • This is ridiculous. Howard University should weigh in on this. The 1.44 million will easily be recouped by giving the students a neighborhood worthy of the university.

    • LOL at the idea of Howard being interested in improving their neighborhood.

      Drop by Howard Town Center next time you’re in the area!

      • Actually, Howard has a five, 10 and 15 year plan for restoring the entire campus — and it’s pretty impressive. The Howard execs understand that witout real improvements, they will continue to go down in rankings for most sought after college by African American students (they have slipped dramatically from top spots in this demo during the last decade). There is vision at Howard, so let’s hope the city leaders will allow/encourage it to fruition.

        • HU’s past laziness and corruption (Cheeks regime) is the reason that area didn’t become what Columbia did in NY or Temple in Philly, or what UPenn accomplished. Howard is this largely irrelevant to the development discussion, sadly.

        • This is what I’ve heard since I moved to the area almost 10 years ago. I’ll believe it when I see it.

    • Why doesn’t Howard crap or get off the pot?

      They own the properties, they should fix them up or sell them.

  • They’re removing the Georgia Ave Great Streets funds?

    Seriously, Gray has got to go. Seeing what real investment has done for H Street should make it obvious that these sorts of targeted, whole-spectrum infrastructure developments are the way to go. If I were in Petworth I would be livid.

    • Prince Of Petworth

      This section is south of Petworth.

      • Oh. Maybe this answers my question below about the small amount of funding ($1.44M).

        So the Great Streets initiative for the rest of Georgia Avenue is still a go? This is just for one section?

      • It’s funny: just a week ago I was over by Georgia & Taylor, being impressed by their sidewalk reconstructions. I can’t think why they’d rescind the funding farther south.

  • I feel strongly about this, but I’d much rather sign a paper petition than an online one. Anyone have experience with this website? Will I get emails and mailers about various political causes for the rest of my life if I “sign” this thing?

    • +1. I’m not convinced online petitions are taken seriously. Why not post the name and number of someone for everyone to call?

    • ledroittiger

      Sadly, will bomb your mailbox. Even the “safe unsubscribe” option doesn’t seem to change that much.

      • I disagree with J. I have signed a couple of petitions over the past year and haven’t had a single spam email.

  • What community does this Mayor serve? Does he think that investing in making a neighborhood more attractive to businesses somehow harms his constituents? It’s not like Georgia Ave is Georgetown.

  • Dare I ask a question?

    So he’s moving the funding to a project in NE, in theory that could reflect the city believes the money will have a greater impact there. Is there any indication to the contrary? Are these similar programs?

    • No. Quite different projects. Instead of fixing up the streets and sidewalks, it would go to upgrade police offices in NE. Tax payers won’t see any real benefit and they certainly won’t recoup it increased tax revenues.

      • Anyone know how necessary the upgrade is? If their offices are dilapidated, it’s one thing. But if this is a union payoff, I’ll be quite irritated.

        • You bring up a good question, longley.
          The money reprogrammed from this stretch of GA Ave would go to fund a consolidation of MPD offices. According to public testimony earlier this year before the council (searchable online):

          “DRES and MPD are working together on the relocation and consolidation of multiple MPD units to 2850 New York Avenue, NE. This space will house three units currently housed in facilities with expensive leases (Automated Traffic Enforcement Unit, Narcotics and Special Investigations Division, and the Equipment and Supply Branch), and relocate both the Special Operations Division – which is in a facility scheduled to be sold soon – and the Emergency Response Team when additional capital is available. While 2850 New York Avenue would be a leased facility, the lease cost is less than the aggregate of the other leases in question. Further, the operational enhancement of consolidating these units into one location supports the move.”

          So it looks like this would reduce city expenditures at a time when city budgets are stretched thin. Given that our mayor is Mr. Fiscal Responsibility, it doesn’t surprise me in the least he would favor this use of city funds.

  • After thinking about it, there’s only $1.44 million for this project? That’s not enough to do much at all, is it? H Street was something like $35M.

  • Perspective folks…

    The Pennsylvania Ave SE Great Streets project they just finished cost 20 million a mile.

    So lets see…that 1.4 million funds exactly 369 feet of street improvements, or the length of a football field, goalpost to goal post.

    • Different type of work completely. GA Ave doesn’t require the same type of structural overhaul. They planned to get the whole 1.5 miles done w/ $8M.

      • Well, in all fairness, the original budget for Penn Ave was 14 million a mile. All of these projects creep.

        However, if what you are saying is true, then it is still only enough for 1/3rd of a mile worth of work. Not exactly a large influencial project.

        Frankly, in a time of quarter billion dollar yearly deficits (after having eaten 1.3 billion dollars worth of deficits in the past 4 budget years), its trimming the edges on projects like these that are the only smart things the mayors office is doing.

        Of course, if it really bothered you, I am sure they can take the 1.4 million out of cabi and only fund it 50% next year?

        • Even though I live near the affected area and would personally benefit from the improvements, I am inclined to agree with you. There is going to be pain all around. The money is going to the police department. I certainly have not read the fine print in the annual DC budget to say whether this is reasonable or not.

          But one thing is clear: we’re in a massive recession. Real estate taxes make up a huge part of DC’s income every year, and property values are sucking. There is going to be pain all around.

          This is not something to cry “Gray sucks” about. This is a tiny project in the grand scheme of things. Adrian Fenty couldn’t have magically made money appear either.

          • You admit that you haven’t gone over the budget, but you draw a conclusion. I think it’s premature. If politically-connected people and causes are getting money and Georgia Avenue isn’t, it’s a question of the mayor’s priorities. It could very well be a case of Gray sucking.

          • No, I did not draw a conclusion. Everyone else did: that this is bad, and is evidence of Gray being bad.

            The only conclusion I drew is that balancing the budget in a recession requires cuts in many areas. I think that’s pretty hard to dispute that.

            Without further information, it is impossible to say whether this was a good decision or not. In the absence of that knowledge, it’s premature to be criticizing the mayor for what could easily be a necessary decision.

          • Here’s a way to increase revenue while helping the police: make the organizers of the Carribean Day festival pay their estimated $300K (and growing) in police overtime bills.

          • We can also decline to give parking/traffic violation “discounts” for out-of-state residents. I love how our decision-makers put the interests of non-DC residents over the needs of actual DC residents.

          • “This is not something to cry “Gray sucks” about.”

            This is a conclusion. I hate to argue semantic, but I’m arguing semantics.

            I don’t think you can say that this isn’t the case of the mayor sucking when it very well may be. We all know that balancing a budget in a recession (even though this isn’t one) is difficult, but we also know that to govern is to choose, and the mayor makes his choices.

          • +100 to:
            “Here’s a way to increase revenue while helping the police: make the organizers of the Carribean Day festival pay their estimated $300K (and growing) in police overtime bills.”

  • Seriously. I cannot wait until his one year is up. He’s been a complete embarrassment to a city that prides itself in having an educated and informed voting populace and which had the option of maintaining a mayor that most agreed was getting positive results. Its amazing to me that so many held the belief that Gray would continue to move the city forward but without the stain of cronyism and insider dealings. Instead Gray would seem to be doing a wonderful job trying to run the District into the ground if he weren’t so distracted by the almost weekly revelation of improprieties and corruption within his administration.

    • +1 and I would also add that he claims ignorance of the improprieties and corruption after the fact, which I sincerely believe – believe that he has no idea what is going on inside his own administration!

    • @Parkview
      “Almost weekly revelation of improprieties and corruption within his administration.”

      I think the nepotism that took place at the beginning of the mayor’s term was disappointing, certainly, but he fired Judy Banks, Lorraine Green, and Gerri Mason Hall almost immediately after the fact.

      I often read a lot of unsubstantiated allegations and rhetoric about Gray on PoP, so am curious whether your claim of “‘weekly’ revelations of impropriety and corruption” should be added to that list.

      Do you really think this city is being “run … into the ground?” In what way? I can see how our high unemployment is troubling, but how has the mayor contributed to that?

      • Vincent Gray is NOT running this city into the ground. He’s not running anything.

        [But the addition today of Pringle to his team will mean that the next campaign will feature memes of real righteous ghetto folks getting out the vote against evil gentrifiers and some Rhee effigy. LOL She a black female Karl Rove]

  • Thanks for the heads up. I didn’t realize he had done this. What a crock. I’m sending an email to Graham ([email protected] ) and Gray ([email protected]), too.

  • Greetings,

    Thanks PoP for posting this. If you’re wary of an online petition, there is a hardcopy one. We’ll be organizing folks to go door to door for signatures but you can call me at (202) 462-2285 or email me at [email protected] and we’ll make sure we get it to you. You can also drop by the ECAC at 733 Euclid St. NW (between Georgia and Sherman) to sign as well.

  • People need to get active with this! It makes horrible sense economically to put money into this project north on GA and not connect it on the south end. What a waste!

    Write Graham and Gray, please

  • “Tax payers won’t see any real benefit and they certainly won’t recoup it increased tax revenues.”

    So, since you are so knowledgable about what the money is being spent on, please elaborate. I don’t know anything about the project, but if you, say, replaced “police offices” with “school building”, would you still feel the same way? What about “fire house”? We need to maintain ALL of our facilities, for obvious reasons.

    So anyway, I would like to know what basis do you make the proclamation that the project the money’s going to fund is less important than the last 18% of the Great Streets Georgia Avenue project.

  • the money is not gong to the MPD. The article was written with incorrect information. The funding went to the South Capitol Bridge project.

    In reality where the attention needs to be focused is on HU. Most of the blocks that are affected by this are HU property and DDOT is not going to waste money rebuilding sidewalks that are going to be torn up by HU when their asses actually move and try to do something about their campus plan. It is not logical for DDOT or our taxes to be spent that way.

    Eric in LeDroit has it right, HU could care less and when they do show some interested it is definitely not in the appropriate place.

  • I agree with @la_nina. This part of GA ave is mostly controlled by Howard U, and the university has shown little interest in developing the neighborhood.

    I’m not sure what recourse there is in terms of bringing pressure to bear on the university, but I think that in the long run, that’s where the pressure will yield the best results.

    • someday, this neighborhood will engage in the same bullshit that georgetown university has to deal with- people that think they know better than the school about what to do with the schools property. Leave Howard to take care of Howard.

  • Howard U could have and should have done much more to improve the neighborhoods around it decades ago. They chose not too. FAIL! NEXT!

  • +100 to:

    “Here’s a way to increase revenue while helping the police: make the organizers of the Carribean Day festival pay their estimated $300K (and growing) in police overtime bills.”

  • “Here’s a way to increase revenue while helping the police: make the organizers of the Carribean Day festival pay their estimated $300K (and growing) in police overtime bills.”

    So who’s a bigger horse’s ass.

    The caribbean festival organizers, for not paying the tab, or DC, for issuing them a permit to hold another festival when they’re still in the hole from the last one?

    Easy to get them to pay up: Don’t issue any more permits to close 2 miles of Georgia Avenue until they do.

    • +1,

      How is this still an issue anyways? When I don’t pay a parking ticket I get in trouble, not too mention I don’t shoot people.

      ..hmmm political votes for Graham and Co.??

      • It’s still an issue because, correct me if I’m wrong, next year the festival will want to come again, and many will scream racism and gentrification if the Festival is required to pay up its debts and be more transparent and safer.

  • Are all the great streets projects being defunded?

  • Graham and Fenty bottled the funds up as part of Graham’s slush fund. With the money doing nothing since 2006 Gray reprogrammed it. Now we have to get it back, while keeping it away from Graham.


  • F##k Gray…so many intelligent, accountable, young people of all races leave this city. More are staying then in the past, but still we need to start promoting the best and brightest into doing public service for DC

  • Related question, first, what is going on with the nearly-complete portion of the Great Streets program north of the metro stop? It has been nearly complete forever, but the old light poles are still up, right next to the new poles, and some of the public space paving / landscaping has been left unfinished. At a minimum, finish this up — seems odd to complete 90 percent of that portion of the project, but then just, at the very end, suddenly stop working through completion, as has apparently happened. Anyone know the deal? (Still, even in incomplete form, it is a HUGE upgrade and the area north of the metro stop — thanks to this project and all the other new development — now has a complete different feel to walk around on).

    As for the bigger issue of lower Georgia Ave., I agree that it is ridiculous that this project was not completed years ago as planned. It really will pay for itself in terms of increased revenue in the long run — look how infrastructure improvements have upgraded the H Street and 14th Street commercial corridors, both of which are teeming with new businesses and have tons of foot traffic throughout the day and night. Georgia Ave. feels like a neglected after thought, despite the great location near major metro and bus lines, with tons of commercial vacancies, and dense population nearby. It truly is at a tipping point with a few entrepeneurs struggling on a street that feels like an afterthought due to poor lighting, infrastructure, streetscaping, etc. This needs to be a top priority among commercial district projects in the District.

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