“Should I round up my parent friends and have a ‘baby sit-in’? What’s the protocol here?”

6th and P St, NW

“Dear PoPville,

I live on the eastern side of Shaw, where there are a dearth of grassy parks that my 7-month-old baby can crawl around on. I noticed a potentially nice space near the playground at Kennedy Rec Center at 7th and P NW with tall trees, winding paths and lots of grass. Yesterday, we tried it out. The only other group was a triad, sitting by the fence, chatting, surveying the park and giving me a suspicious look.

I set the blanket out, kicking away bottle caps, bandaids and pieces of glass. When we looked over to the other group, we noticed a man stumble up, hand over some cash, and take a little baggie from them. Lots of weary side eye was directed our way.

Needless to say, we felt a little unwelcome. My husband later pointed out that the glass may have been intentionally thrown around to deter the likes of me.

So, what to do? Should we forget about the park, leaving the space for the group to conduct business? Should I keep coming back, but mind my own business? Should I round up my parent friends and have a ‘baby sit-in’? What’s the protocol here? What do other neighbors think of that space?”


100 Comment

  • If more people were to use the park for its intended purposes, the druggies would find someplace else to hang out.

  • As a neighbor who hopes to use that park when I have a baby, I love the idea and would join you if I had a baby in tow 🙂 .

    FWIW, I think the police in the area are pretty responsive to resident concerns and you may want to get in touch with them before making any big moves. For example, I know they made some arrests last night next to the bus stop at 7th and P where people tend to congregate with 6-packs all day. You could contact Sergeant James M. Boteler, Jr directly at (202) 553-7908.

  • In my experience in NYC, parks change usage only after someone (usually the city, though some have private partnerships involved) spends a lot of money to renovate the park. How this ends up working, I’m not sure – perhaps once renovated, when folks like you and your child start coming in droves, the drug dealers don’t feel so welcome anymore and move their business. Maybe they move their business while the park is closed for renovations and don’t come back later. Whether you can do this on your own, without wholesale renovation, is doubtful. But by the time that happens, your child may be well into elementary school.

    • The park was -just- renovated and it’s gorgeous!

    • This is what happened at the playground at 11th and Monroe in CH. I haven’t been there in a while, but once they cleaned the place out and put in playground equipment, the “unsavories” moved on. Just a note. Not a comment on the Kennedy playground since it has been renovated and is beautiful. Though, my friend’s wallet got stolen there and I’ve noticed graffiti and trash on the ground.

  • i applaud you attempting to reclaim public spaces. we need more people like you to stage sit ins and start to speak up and stand up (or sit down) to reclaim places for public good. public places that are safe and family friendly. i don’t have a family in this city, but DC does little to encourage clean and safe parks, which encourage families and communities to thrive as well as foster enhanced levels of safety and deter crime.

    • i’m not sure about that, i’ve seen lots of parks transformed in the last several years, including the part of this one with the playground! i live in bloomingdale and the city did a good job with the formerly desolate, drug and liquor bottle-addled park at R&Florida last year.

      • There are still a lot of drunk people who hang out at the tables there.

        • Yeah, I wish they would rethink that design with the tables and the horseshoe pits that have NEVER been used. I think this playground was the last that was rehabbed before the policy to add a water feature or splash park when renovating. It would be a perfect opportunity to retrofit that area into something families would actually use.

    • I agree with MS5, but I want to point out that Sherman Circle was transformed into a pretty nice park five years ago and even has a cop sit in it sometimes. (But that was also after a student got shot in the park for passing a drug deal. So…)

  • Everytime I have walked past that park it looks pretty sketchy. The playground looks awesome with tons of kids running around, but as for the grassy area, I have only seen middle aged men and teenagers “hanging out.”

    I am always tempted to run though the water fountains, but then I would be the one who looked sketchy! Why do kids get to have all the fun??

    • Leaving aside blatant drug dealing or violence (where sure, of course, call the cops!) what feels “pretty sketchy” to you might just be a gathering of someone’s friends. I get it; it’s unpleasant to feel unwelcome. But the people who are just hanging out and talking (maybe their apartment is small/unairconditioned; maybe they want a change of scenery) aren’t being rude or exclusive. It’s a park for them equally as much as for parents and babies.

      • +1
        I hate it when someone sees a group of minorities or possibly working class folks in a communal space and automatically jumps at calling it sketchy.

        • its best to assume the worst when reading short comments on the internet.

        • When I hear people use the word “sketchy,” I assume they mean it in a racist way. (I’m white, not that it matters.) I’ve only ever heard it used this way by people I know who use this word, so I never use this word because that is what the context I’ve heard it used in tells me that it means. I really hate the word.

  • You should call the police and get them to extricate those vagrants. You are a taxpaying law abiding citizen and you deserve the use of the city parks. The rest of the city’s law abiding citizens support you.

    • If they are not committing any crime — or not committing a crime while being observed by the police — then they have as much right to be there as anyone. The police cannot throw them out just because some people are uncomfortable with their presence. This is not to say that the OP didn’t have reason to feel uncomfortable, only to point out that this does not necessarily justify police action.

      • I think the original poster pointed out that she saw a baggie and cash be exchanged and felt threatened. I agree with letting anyone use the parks, but I think the drug deal was the main reason behind the post.

        • I agree about the OP’s comment. My comment was more to address Frank’s statement that police should “extricate those vagrants.” It is fine to say that police should address drug dealing (although most people are not going to conduct a drug deal if they see a uniform police officer, so it is not that simple). But it is not a crime to be homeless or to spend the day in the park, so no police action is justified.

  • I think the baby sit-in is a great idea. You might also email the very good 3D police commander Jacob Kishter, too, and let him know what you’re doing.

    • thanks for the support (I’m the asker). I guess i was actually hoping that sending this to PoPville might encourage more parents to bring their kids there. Here’s for hoping!

  • I live over there too. The closest green space to our house is the little park at New Jersey and P behind the fire station. It actually has some nice old trees that provide shade. I haven’t seen drug dealing, but there are a lot of homeless sleeping on benches (doesn’t bother me personally, just giving you the lay of the land). We take our dog there when we don’t feel like going up to the dog park and no one bothers us. I haven’t noticed any garbage on the ground, although it’s not exactly a gorgeous manicured lawn either. Could be a good alternative to the 7th and P spot though!

    • It bothers me. Why do we accept all this homelessness in the city? Aren’t there loitering laws? Wish the police would enforce and clear them out. City parks are not warehouses for homeless, they are greenspace for all law abiding citizens to enjoy.

      • If a homeless person wants to spend his or her day sitting on a park bench, minding his or her own business, I have zero issue with it. If the same person were non-homeless citizen reading a book all day on one of those park benches would that change your mind? Probably. So as long as they aren’t causing trouble, who cares?

        • I think the issue is that the parks used by a high number of homeless people, like the ones in downtown DC, end up having tons of trash, shopping carts and other bags full of possessions, and end up feeling very unwelcoming to others who would like to use them.

      • homelessness isn’t against the law.

      • A) no, there aren’t anti-loitering laws, which does suck. B) why do you assume all homeless people are not law-abiding citizens? No they don’t pay taxes but that doesn’t mean they’re automatically criminals. Now if they’re harassing people or doing illegal things (like selling drugs) I don’t think we should put up with that. But just sitting there? C’mon, have some compassion.

        • What do you mean when you say they don’t pay taxes? Income taxes? Lots of people who aren’t homeless also don’t make enough money to pay income taxes. Property taxes? They obviously don’t have property to be taxed. Sales tax? I don’t know how they’d get around paying that.

          • I mean just what I said…they don’t pay taxes because they don’t have income nor do they have property. My implication was that just because they don’t pay taxes doesn’t make them any less law-abiding or entitled to public space than any of us (as long as they are not partaking in criminal activity).

      • OH GOOD LORD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • Uh, no, there are no anti-loitering laws in DC, apparently.

      • Where exactly do you want them “cleared out” to? Being that they’re, you know, homeless, they don’t exactly have their own space to go. And they have just as much right to be out in public space and not be bothered as you do.

      • Absent any criminal activity, loitering is a constitutionally protected activity. That is why there are no enforceable anti-loitering laws in the District.

        Yes, there are anti-loitering laws in other jurisdictions that haven’t been challenged, but they do not necessarily have the ACLU and all sorts of other watch dogs operating in their town.

        • This is a vast oversimplification of the constitutionality of anti-loitering laws. Laws may be upheld as long as they are not so vague that they give police unlimited discretion in when to enforce them. To the extent you’re suggesting that citizens can be ordered to disperse only if criminal activity is underway, you are mistaken.

          • Yes, I simplified my summary for the purpose of this discussion. In addition to criminal activity, there are other possible parameters, such as a legitimate government interest in dispersing people. So for instance, the District crafted the law on Blocking Passage (DC Code 22-1307) to specifically address people who block entrances, public paths, sidewalks, etc., while loitering. In this instance, police can direct people to move. Police can also address people who cross police lines. But just as an example, in the fall the Council is likely to repeal a series of anti-loitering laws where police were authorized to disperse people for engaging in drug or prostitution-related behavior. The Office of the Attorney General has opined that these laws were not constitutionally sound because they were not based on actual behavior related to drugs or prostitution. But if police had probable cause that the actual behavior was occurring, they could arrest the individuals instead of just dispersing them.
            So yes, my initial response was a simplification, but it was in response to brief, simple comments in this string. In all sincerity, if you have some suggestions on constitutional anti-loitering laws that would address scenarios mentioned in this post, I am sure the Council would like to see them.

      • You can always just throw their stuff away, spray them and call them the n-word to “clear them out.” It worked for ANC Commissioner Leo Dwyer the other day.

  • Congressional Cemetery used to be a place where a lot of “business” went down until a group of dog walkers decided they were going to reclaim it. More and more people joined in and it’s now the wonderful place it is today. I think your idea seems similar and it seems doable.

  • I spent several years working nearby. There are tons of kids using that playground (as the picture with this post or any visit to the site indicates). There have been for decades. It would be good if there were more trash cans and if DPR or neighbors did regular cleanups. But I’m pretty sure no one is throwing around broken glass specifically to keep “the likes of you” away. Chances are if you keep showing up and just say hi to the people hanging out, most people aren’t going to give you any trouble. At most they’d want to talk to you about your baby and how cute s/he is. So use the park or don’t, up to you. Call the cops if you see something out of control. But don’t feel like by showing up with your kid you’re doing something special and rescuing the park.

    • Hi, I’m the question asker. Thanks for the response! I walk by pretty much daily, and while there are tons of kids on the playground, I have never seen one on the grassy park portion. Good suggestion, though.

    • +1000 – not sure how having a kid suddenly makes people so entitled in this city. People are using the park – if its illegal activity call the cops. Otherwise, the fact that you’ve shown up with a kid in tow doesn’t entitle you to change everyone else’s behavior.

      • the issue is drug dealing.

        the entitlement here is the criminals use of public land for illegal trade within a violent market.

        • +1

          Curious Thanks for Saying This as to what stuck you as child-created “entitlement” because the OP felt uncomfortable about drug dealing?

          • The OP might have overemphasized the parent-with-child aspect of it — it doesn’t need to be a “baby sit-in,” or indeed any kind of formal, fuss-making sit-in — but I think overall his/her instinct is a sound one.
            If people who aren’t drug dealers make use of the area and call the police on the drug dealers, likely the drug dealers will go away.

    • Are you implying that we should respect their rights to deal drugs in our neighborhood?

    • I use to play tennis here and stopped after the sixth time when gunfire opened up on the grassy part next to the courts. I felt like a rat trapped in a cage in the fenced in tennis area. I think that is the fastest I’ve ever moved.

    • Exactly what I was thinking. Throwing glass around to keep folks away….really? Keep going to the park. Clean up an area for family, stay alert and you’ll be fine.

  • I hate that attitude on this website. We live in the city because we love it and we shouldn’t have to move to Clarendon to have a park that is free of drug dealing.

    • +1. And it’s such a false binary.

    • Agree totally, is the choice live in the suburbs or deal with drug dealers? I hope there is a happy medium.

    • figby

      And people without kids shouldn’t have to keep moving further east to get away from the endlessly demanding, encroaching needs of mommies and babies and cultural sanitization.

      • Only gentrifiers are having kids? Check out the playground, you will see this is mix of all types of people. All parents (moms AND dads) want a safe park for theirs kids.

  • We live in the townhouse overlooking the park on 6th and P. The space OP is talking about is under-used. Part of the problem is there is no access on 6th street at all. Most people currently use the space for cookouts and horse-shoes. We would love to help create an atmosphere where people feel comfortable laying out and playing like Logan Circle.

    • They just fixed this up so people could throw shoes there, and you are implying that is what people are doing. Why do you want this to change?

      • All I am saying is that clearly OP feels uncomfortable laying out. Park should be for everyone. I would like her to feel comfortable and to help let both these uses coexist. The horse-shoes have a designated area away from where OP would like to be. So, this coexistence could easily happen if we make an effort to make the safe feel “safe” for kids and parents.

        • But what do you mean when you put “safe” in quotes? I don’t think people should be committing crimes in the park or anywhere else, but there’s a whole lot of legal activity that some people enjoy and some people are scared by. If I’m frightened of dogs and someone has one on a leash and walks it down the street, is it my problem or theirs? What if babies creep me out–can I still hang out at a picnic table in the park? Should I hold a no-kid-in?

          If a person feels freaked out by a bunch of guys sitting in a park and occasionally looking at her (while she’s looking back), there’s not much that can be done except for her to change her opinion or for the guys not to use the park. I guess I’d prefer the former to the latter.

          • What I mean by “safe” is her personal safety. There is a lot of drinking in the park and OP shouldn’t feel threatened. Everyone should feel free to use park – but over indulging in Alcohol and drugs tend to scare away families and others. Speaking from what I witness on daily basis.

          • Don’t be dense. “I am uncomfortable with the people exchanging baggies for cash glaring at me” is a completely different statement from “I am uncomfortable with non-white people,” which is what you are implying with much sanctimony and little apparent basis.

    • There aren’t that many metro-accessible places to do cookouts and horseshoes. Maybe it’s ok that Logan Circle is a place where people “lay out and play” (presumably, play something other than horseshoes) and that this is a place where it’s ok to do any of those things. I’m not saying it’s ok to have drug dealing or other crimes go down, but I think that if a bunch of old men want to shoot the sh*t at a picnic table that’s cool, and if a bunch of parents of babies want to set out blankets and chat that’s fine too.

    • +1
      I see folks using the space for bbqs and horeshoes, too. I’ve never noticed anything sketchy going on there, but i’ve never tried to picnic there, either. seems like the new playground portion is getting good use, and the tennis courts too. I would encourage you to keep going to the park, and encourage other neighbors to use it, too. I think the trend is in the right direction.

      • just seeing that other readers interpreted ACG’s comment to read that bbqs and horseshoe playing should be replaced by picnic-ers. This wasn’t how i read it. I am happy to see people bbq ing and throwing shoes, and think that is perfectly compatible with neighborhood picnic-ers.

    • Cookouts? They typically use that red grill to keep the bottles of alcohol in and many time there are people passing out on the picnic benches.

      We have an almost two year old and we love the playground, but agree the grassy area isn’t kid friendly or for that matter friendly at all. A start would be the if the park service threw out the old chairs that are there and stacks of milk crates. I have seem police in the area and they don’t do anything about the drinking or drug use

    • If most people are using the space for cookouts and horseshoes it sounds like there is already considerable comfort with using the space for “playing” and other legal recreational activities?

  • +1 If nothing else, it will happen when the kids approach grade-school age and they’re forced to consider the cost of private school.
    And why is it so rude to suggest the suburbs? Fact is, there are tons of parks and cheaper housing by the sq foot in the suburbs. It’s funny how defensive people get about that.

    • It’s not RUDE to suggest it, just unhelpful and pointless.

      Thousands of people live in DC with school aged children. I don’t understand why suburbanites like to pretend like their choice was the only viable one. Funny you use the word ‘defensive’, because, if one side of this debate is defensive I don’t think it’s the DC residents…

    • Because there is no good reason why any D.C. park should be the exclusive province of drug dealers et al.

      • sure there is – those drug dealers were there before you were. if you don’t like them, move to springfield.

    • -1 I considered my DC neighborhood school and I’m quite happy having selected it. My kids like it too. And the nice parks nearby.

    • because the suburbs are bad for america.

    • It’s rude because it says to parents “you don’t belong.” And even as a non-parent, I know that’s just stupid. There’s a lot of value to keeping young families in the city; they DO belong here, so let’s make space for them.

  • How about we just ship the drug dealers there instead?

  • That park is shady (in both senses). I live on the corner and can say I’m not sure I would want to lounge around in that grass. I’d probably be more worried about my child crawling around in dog urine and feces than the broken glass.

  • You’re not supposed to talk about the Plan openly. What if Courtland Miloy finds out?!

    • +1. Pretty soon Barry is going to tweet about this thread. A gentrification sit-in on 7th st NW. The irony is stupefying. I think Stokely Carmichael led the crowds down 7th in 68.

      • is it ironic because Carmichael was a peaceful activist who wanted to foster a welcoming community much like this woman does?

  • Last night at 750pm a 3D resident reported on the 3D listserv that there were ongoing issues with people drinking and “partying” at the bus stop near 7th & P NW. Within 12 minutes, MPD has responded via the listserv. At 9:28pm, MPD reported that “Members of 3-D VICE responded to 7th & P Street,NW and arrested two adult males who were charged with “Possession of Open Containers of Alcoholic Beverages,” “Unlawful Entry” and “Urinating in Public.” Thanks for the Intel.”

    MPD does not always get it right but they did in this case. I hope others will alert MPD when they see illegal activity around Kennedy Rec.

    • props to the cops!

      • +1. I spoke with the vice squad sergeant about it a few days after this thread went up and they’ve been back a few times since to check up on it. The “party” still seems to be going on — there are usually 3-6 guys there hanging out most afternoons and evenings — but at least the drinking and public urination seem to be a bit more in check.

  • thanks! born and raised in Dupont (waaaaaay before it was cool), but hat still doesn’t mean i am ok with illegal activities where my child plays

  • I grew up in the burbs (Sterling to be exact) and I promise there were plenty of park drug deals happening. I’ll never understand why that is people’s automatic response, though in this case I think based on the OP’s spacing and typing, he/she was joking.

  • While I think you guys should want to and have the right to safe parks and other public spaces… please keep in mind the safety of the little ones and if it’s worth the fight… having a “sit-in” with kids in tow may not be the smartest thing.

  • I would suggest a couple of things. One, take ownership of the park and maybe clean up some of the glass yourself. A simple raking and scooping may work nicely. Two, call DPR (Dept. Parks and Rec) and tell them about the glass on the grass and ask that they be more vigilant in keeping it clean.

    I ride by that park every day and mostly see older folks sitting around and grilling, I’ve never seen a drug transaction but I don’t hang out for that long. Also, I often see families playing in that area so it cannot be too family unfriendly.

  • We have a four year old and go to the playground often. While the jungle gym area is great, we haven’t ventured out by the trees yet for this same reason. There’s normally several groups of adult males sitting in the park, either on a bench or playing horseshoes (which can get a little unnerving at times, as they start to argue and yell profanities at one another about the game).
    Long story short, I’m all for attempting to spend (more) time in the grassy area, but I don’t think I would bring my child along right away. With the way some individuals act, I don’t think having children present would be much of a deterrent to poor behavior.

  • this thread has apparently jumped the shark, but i gotta put in my 2 cents. i live near the park and my toddler has played in that “nature area,” as i like to think of it (it’s too shady to ever be a “grassy” area). we’ve had fun there. yes, other folks use it who may not be my/your demographic, but just b/c it’s a bunch of black folks congregating doesn’t mean they’re unwelcoming. and i would bet that the overwhelming number of those folks are not drug dealers but are simply looking for a neutral place to hang out with their friends near their houses or where they grew up. keep going, say hi every time and make a bit of conversation–i honestly bet you’d be very surprised how friendly people can be when you make that kind of genuine effort. and sure, encourage others to go too, but just accept that it’s a city and there’s a lot of different types of people here.

    • Did you miss the OP’s mention of seeing a baggie being exchanged for cash?

      • Like i said, i don’t doubt that it occurred, but do doubt that that’s the

        • sorry–but do doubt that’s a really big part of what’s going on there. seriously now–selling drugs in any big way at kennedy rec center? give folks just a bit more credit.

          • Yeah—don’t you know, it’s a baggy-storing service. Homeless people don’t want their baggies taken in the night, so they pay these gentlemen to store them. Then when they need their baggies they come by and pay them money.


  • Historically the area was one where people from all walks of life came to satisfy their vices: http://ghostsofdc.org/tag/hells-bottom/ It has also been a kind of focal point, between there and U street, for civil rights activism over the years.
    I am sending my kids to a summer camp next week that is right around the corner from that park, and there are several daycares that use it as a destination for their daily walks. The new spray park looks fantastic and we are looking forward to trying it out. But I can say that Kennedy park has been infamous for a long time for drug activity, drunks, discarded needles and general sketchiness. I do like how the “trolley car” playground on 11th has been renovated and the drunks that used to nap and urinate there all day have mostly moved on.
    I have mixed feelings about crowding out the adults that hang out there. Public drinking and drug dealing is unacceptable, but the rec center is supposed to be for everyone, not just kids.
    What they need is to crack down on drug dealing and rowdiness, clean up the glass and trash, and PUT IN MORE SHADE TREES so other areas of the park are tolerable in the summer.

  • Have you joined the Mount Vernon Triangle, Mount Vernon Square, Shaw parents listserv to talk about this space? Several parents have been discussing how to better utilize this area, and maybe this is a question you could post there.

  • Call or email the police when you see drug-dealing at Kennedy Rec. Call or email the police when you see boozing at the tables next to the playground. Call or email the police when you see boozing and urinating in public at the bus stop at 7th and P. Call or email the police when the dice come out and gambling starts in the parking lot next to P…

    Police tend to focus more effort on policing places they receive the most calls/emails about. Call/email logs matter for where they focus resources, and continuing to raise these issues with MPD will get results.

    Just today MPD responded and made several arrests at the nonstop party at the 7th and P bus stop. This was based on neighbors complaints via email.

  • Many times I have walked my dog past that park and been cat-called at and offered drugs- thank you for speaking up. I would gladly support any activity to make this beautiful park into the family friendly space it was intended to be.

  • You should definitely keep going there and enjoying the space. Ignore the sketchy characters in the corner – don’t engage with them and leave them alone. That park looks great and there are tons of new condos and rentals getting built there – very soon, you definitely won’t be the only mom there with a baby. Whether these weird characters look welcoming or not is irrelevant – enjoy the space, because that’s what its meant for.

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