Man Plants Flowers at Dupont North Metro Entrance, Metro says this is not Kosher, Change.org Petition Launched

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Thanks to a reader for sending this link from Let My Flowers Grow:

Dear Metro Officials:

As you may not know, after considerable expense of my time and money and at some cost to the peace in our home, I planted over a thousand flowers at the Dupont Circle Metro North Station. Metro ordered me to Stop. If I stop, the flowers will die before they bloom.

Tears are in my eyes as I write this letter with a very heavy heart. I was stunned and saddened by your Fed Ex response that I would face “arrest, fines and imprisonment” if I continued to tend to the thousand flowers I planted at the Dupont Circle Metro North Station.

Your Order that I “cease and desist with this activity immediately” seems a little inappropriate for this situation. The previously abandoned and filthy terraced garden squares had been neglected for years. They did not appear to be high on your list of priorities, in spite of the considerable efforts Metro expends elsewhere to make their properties attractive.

Out of the goodness of my heart, last Fall I planted over 100 bulbs in the very same neglected garden squares. Months later they bloomed, sharing their joy and beauty with fellow Metro Riders.

This Spring I returned. I weeded and two trash bags were filled with more than 300 discarded cigarette butts, shards of glass, wads of gum, tree branches and assorted fast food restaurant garbage.

But when your representative writes that Metro wants to explore “affordable and sustainable” ways to improve the station’s appearance, I wonder what you have in mind and on what time table?

What could be more “affordable” to Metro than an artist who gives away a garden of a thousand flowers? What could be more “sustainable” than an artist who’s willing to provide the labor this Summer and Fall to water and care for the garden and then clean up when everything is brown and dead after our First Frost?

Gardening on those terraces is no more physically challenging than hiking on the Billy Goat Trail near Great Falls, MD or Old Rag in Virginia. I respectfully disagree that this performance art piece “endangers not only yourself but the public as well.” Nevertheless, I offered to sign a waiver to hold Metro harmless as I recognize your concerns are part of the fear filled society we currently live in. But flowers are nature’s way of affirming how beautiful life can be.

During this time when our country faces numerous challenges, it does not makes sense to discourage and delay the creation of something beautiful. Nevertheless, I understand your reluctance and am willing to forgo re-entering the site and installing the whimsical sculptures and trellises for the flowers to climb up and cover…. if I can merely have watering rights.

As a working solution which will create a win win situation for Metro, its riders and the flowers, I propose to stand outside the four foot tall concrete wall that encircles the station and water the flowers from the flat sidewalk that everyone walks on. A local vendor has volunteered to share his truck which can deliver 400 gallons of water at a time.

I have received assistance and moral support from many individuals and organizations. People I don’t know have offered heartfelt thanks, notes of appreciation and offers of assistance. A Swiss Embassy official thinks I should “get an award”. Someone at the National Gallery of Art understands. The Downtown Cluster of Congregations, the Israeli Embassy, GlobalWaterDances.org, Marylee Hardenbergh, an employee at Razoo.org, Mike Barnes, David Catania’s staff, Bob Halligan, Joanne Newhouse, Dan Oran, Leon Wieseltier, Barry Louis Polisar (the person who wrote the theme song to the movie “Juno”), Jackson Carnes of the Dupont Historic Main Street organization, and even a Hollywood Producer so far.

In light of this spontaneous groundswell of support I intend to actively gather support with a petition.

I hope you’ll accept a win win solution and allow me watering rights. I do not wish my flowers to die when the inevitable heat returns to Washington.

I am willing to work with you to explore long term solutions to making the Dupont North Station entrance more attractive.

Sincerely,
Henry Docter

The world is not as bad as it is often portrayed in the news. This is an opportunity for all of us to make something beautiful.

You can see the Change.org petition here.

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77 Comment

  • That’s got to be a major liability issue for Metro. It’s sad, but I can totally see where they’re coming from on this.

    • Comparing the slope to the Billy Goat Trail is not really helping him make his point about the safety of being out there.

  • $10 says that the Metro has contract this out and use some sort of union labor to get the job done. Using community volunteers probably violates a few rules that Metro has to abide by.

    The bureaucrat drones win again.

    • Gotta love knee-jerk reactions blaming the big bad unions!

      I hate taking WMATA’s side, but on this one they’re in the right. The North entrance is very steep and hazardous, which would pose a HUGE liability issue for them. Why didn’t he go through the usual channels (like ANCs, DC Council, even petitioning WMATA’s board) if he thought it was such a eyesore? Seems a tad irrational to me and he probably has a few screws loose to boot.

      • Right? Also, if the union was involved they wouldn’t be “contracting it out.” Anon at 3:19 needs to get his conspiracies straight, either its an outsourcing conspiracy or union conspiracy–usually not both.

        • The point they were trying to make is that there are probably some bureaucratic issues at play here, but hey, straw-manning the argument is good too

          • Scrillin

            Well to be fair, that makes it a strawman of a strawman.

          • Yep, exactly. My point is that Metro has certain procurement and labor rules that must be followed to get jobs like this done (both the planting and continued watering/maintenance). Relying on untrained volunteers, especially on a dangerous incline like that, violates all sorts of rules.

            They don’t want this guy to continue watering because, eventually, the plants will be tended to (weeding, replanting for the next season, etc.). They don’t want him to continue climbing on the slope, which is perfectly reasonable.

  • #westernworldissues

  • a reverse flower thief?

  • Calling it a “performance art piece” seems a bit much, and maybe it’s just as well that the “whimsical sculptures” are out of the picture… but this guy’s current proposal (leaving flowers where they are and watering them from the public walkway) sounds fine. I hope Metro can be embarrassed into retreating from its position on this one.

  • I mean….the guy is calling them “his” flowers…but he planted them on city property without their permission, so don’t they cease to be “his.”
    The way I see it: if my neighbor deemed my front yard to be an eyesore and decided to take matters into their own hands, dig up my yard and plant things without my permission, I’d sure as heck tell them to stop. Even if I had been neglecting my garden, it’s still trespassing if someone else decides to take it over.

  • I hate to say it, but I’m with WMATA on this one. Even though he’s providing a great service, he is still trespassing on non-public metro property. If WMATA wanted flowers there, there would be flowers there. You can’t just go onto private property and beautify as you see fit. Not to mention that those “terraces” are pretty steep and I’m sure WMATA doesn’t want the liability that comes with a well-intentioned civilian tumbling 50′ down to the station below.

    • That’s true, but it seems like Metro is shutting the barn door after the horse has already bolted. The dangerous time was when the guy was on the terraces doing the planting — why didn’t anyone stop him then?? He’s now saying that he’ll stay off the terraces and just wants to water from the publicly accessible area above. Seems like Metro ought to at least give it a try.

      • But if they give on that this year, it’ll just encourage him for next year. Or if he has to lean too far over to get the flowers farthest from the wall and falls, he can say he had metro’s permission and sue metro anyway. I say shut this guy down. If he falls and sues metro, we all pay.

  • Really? Go plant somewhere else where the public can still enjoy the fruits of your labor, but you aren’t trespassing, nuisance or a liability. Pretty simple.

  • Nope I’m for it. After a while if our government can’t maintain city property I’m all for good natured citizens who know what they’re doing to volunteer with out anyone asking. Sure there may be stupid red tape that puts Metro clearly in the right on that front, but I say SCREW IT!

    I’m singing the petitions.

  • I’m with him, especially because his workarounds are so reasonable. Not everything has to fall into a bureaucratic abyss, folks.

    • strongly agree! if you want something done, do it yourself. ithere’s something really admirable about a dc resident stepping in and creating a simple change that brightens everyone’s day

  • I can’t believe the commenters are against this guy. What he’s doing is amazing. If metro is concerned about liability, let him sign the waiver.

  • What a beautifully written piece. It is nice to see someone who can express themselves clearly and cogently without resorting to insults and generalized nastiness. Whoever this person is, he seems reasonable, cognizant of Metro’s concerns, and willing to negotiate. There ought to be a middle ground in there. And hopefully, a lesson that a willingness to be flexible and listen to others’ concerns can result in a mutually satisfactory solution.

  • Did it not occur to him to get permission before undertaking a project of this size on Metro’s property? What he’s attempting to do is a nice idea, but that is a seriously hamhanded execution. I agree that it’s a liability issue, both from the perspective of his accessing the terrace (which is really steep) and the drainage issues presented by 400 gallons of water draining into the station on a regular basis.

    • Yeah, Metro should send a cease and desist letter to the rain gods too. In fact, I’ll draft it. I took a couple of law classes and only charge $150/hour.

    • I agree, he should have sought permission before starting his project. He could have also worked with the ANC for funding and community support. Now he is crying wolf and acting as a martyr, I don’t have sympathy and hope WMATA doesn’t change it’s mind..

    • Totally agree. Neat idea, should’ve gotten permission.

  • Nice work Henry! Flower Power!

  • How about planting flowers somewhere not full of entitled yuppies? Or better yet, devote all this time and money to something more valuable, like volunteering or donating to a shelter? Sad to see so much go into such a fruitless endeavor while so many people suffer in this city.

    • That’s right! No flowers for anyone – anywhere – until Poopy the Magic Hobo has a forever home.

      • I sincerely hope this is a troll, if not I feel sorry for your cynical, presumptuous worldview

        • The above is trolling, sure, but the troll does have a point. If you reduce everything to “But there’s someone/someplace else in more serious/dramatic need,” then all you can do is help orphaned quadriplegics in Darfur, because everyone else’s problem is less serious. Sure, planting flowers isn’t the same kind of community improvement as helping at a homeless shelter, but it’s still a form of community improvement.

      • Hilarious, and I agree with the sentiment. If you’re supposed to be a troll, then please troll away.

      • LOL this is hilarious.

      • I need to hear more about Poopy the Magic Hobo!

  • Tree boxes also belong to the city. I wonder if people think that we should wait for permission from the city to plant flowers or anything else in them?

    • Tree boxes are owned by the city but are, by law, to be maintained by the property owner (or occupant, I forget).

      This wall is owned by WMATA and is the legal responsibility of WMATA. They are not analogous.

  • Looks like a lot of readers of this blog need to stop and smell the roses. I’m all for beautification. And yes, if someone went out, spent a crap ton of money and started fixing up MY front yard, I’d probably let them do it. It’s not like this guy did it overnight, they let him get this far why stop him now?

  • Seriously, was he sneaking onto the terraces in the dead of night to plant these flowers? Why did WMATA wait so long to do anything?

  • totally agree

  • I’m all for it, provided he can show he has taken a course on fall prevention and has the right gear in the event he falls. And signs a waiver. That space is steep!

  • Someone actually did fall down this exit and had life-threatening injuries (he is stable now), so I’m guessing it’s mostly just the liability that they are worried about
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/dr-gridlock/wp/2013/06/18/man-seriously-injured-after-falling-onto-dupont-circle-metro-escalators/

    • I’m wondering if the timing has something to do with this. I’m sure Metro has had accident investigators crawling all over that station and I could easily see one of them asking the station manager, “Hey, where’d those flowers come from?”

      Of course, that would leave the station manager scratching his or her head and saying, “Um, I dunno. I can’t see that far from the booth downstairs and it’ll cost you overtime for me to get off my ass and look around the station…”

    • I agree it’s probably a liability thing but that guy was sitting on the wall on top of the escalators and did a straight fall. Same as if he was sitting on a 2nd floor balcony rail and fell off it. He didn’t trip and roll down the incline while going up or down the escalators which is the risk that this person would face.

  • One other thought… One thing that separates us from developing countries is our emphasis on safety, especially on construction sites.

  • No good deed goes unpunished.

  • The stench of overly-dramatic, self-entitled narcissism in this letter is just overwhelming…

  • Btw, kudos to PoP for posting the photo with the end of the Whitman quote. Intentional or not, it sums it up nicely: sweet that this man spent his time, money, and energy to plant these flowers and sad that Metro’s lawyers got involved.

  • besides the liability issue, it’s a potential invitation to invasve species (which is a real issue everywhere if you fon’t regulate).

  • I see an awful lot of loose and displaced granite blocks. I wonder how that happened. It wouldn’t be from someone walking on them and digging around them when he shouldn’t, could it? Add some rains and some growing roots heaving soil and I then wonder how fast one of those blocks would be going when it landed at the bottom of the escalator.

  • Just want to point out that Barry Louis Polisar, one of Henry Docter’s supporters, made what is probably the best kids’ music album EVER made – My Brother Thinks He’s a Banana: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/barrylou77.
    If BLP supports the artist, I’m totally on board too.

  • I’ve always loved this blog and found its commentators to be insightful and well mannered, but my god, this whole thread reveals some harsh truths about this little online community. A lot of cold, bitter and truly arrogant people looking down on others really hard. I’m pretty stunned.

    • What are those harsh truths? Are you stunned that most people here aren’t siding with the flower planter or are you stunned by the way they’ve expressed their positions? Or something else. Or are you just disappoionted that most people don’t agree with you?

      • RE: Are you stunned that most people here aren’t siding with the flower planter or are you stunned by the way they’ve expressed their positions?

        The latter. I expressed no view on the issue at hand. I was more taken aback at how mean and derisive a lot of people got over this, on both sides. I can totally see why people would think the gardener is really cool and doing a service to us all and I get those who look at this as a cut and dry liability issue for Metro. That those sides clashed so vociferously, with such vitriol, was what surprised me.

        • Anonymous from above here. Thanks for responding, I get your position now. I guess I just didn’t detect the same arrogance and vitriol in the posts as you did. It is quite possible that I assume most folks ratchet up their rhetoric when posting online and automatically adjust for that when I read it.

  • I hope u continue

  • “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
    ― Theodore Roosevelt

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