“it’s a ghost town now”

parks

“Dear PoPville,

About a month ago, there was a pretty heated debate about the rampant drug use and loitering in the “Chinatown Parks”.

I noticed the other night that all of the benches in the park at 6th and I St have been removed–and thus–seems to have generally solved the loitering issues (notice it’s a ghost town now). I walk past this park multiple times a week and Friday was the first time I noticed the benches were gone.

I’m curious as to if anyone knows when this happened, if it was indeed in response to the issues that occurred in this park and raised in the post from September, and if this is the city/police’s permanent solution to the issue or if it’s just a stopgap measure until something else is done.

I’m glad the park is generally cleaned up–if I had a dog, I’d feel much better about walking it here now–but it sucks that we have to forgo benches and seating to get to this point. I also feel like this just pushed the problem to some other park or public space instead of getting the people who frequented the park the help they need. But I guess this is why they say we can’t have nice things?”

21 Comment

  • “…the help they need”

    Money? A job? Drug Rehab? Motivation?

    • Not to be picky but I’d take that last one off there. I probably sound liberal and cheesy saying this but I truly believe that 90%+ of people want to help themselves into a better position and have just run into so many hurdles, or have physical or mental illnesses that are expensive or difficult to treat, that they have run out of options. So yes to your first three, but no to the fourth.

      • I think there might be some miscommunication going on: I didn’t take that to read as “innate motivation” – exactly what you described – but more of a “situational motivation” where someone is in such a mental state that they have a hard time self-motivating to do things that often seem basic/obvious to those who are generally well-adjusted. I think we’ve all been there where we struggle motivating ourselves to do things that previously didn’t require much conscious motivation. (TL;DR – semantics)

  • This is a typical DC solution. It’s just like in grade school when the whole class would be punished for a couple of wrong-doers who refused to come forward. This is how DC officials operate. Because one kid left candy wrappers on the floor, now no one can have candy.

    • ^ I am not sure what this comment means but the the park was overrun by people dealing/using drugs and literally destroying property. No one enjoyed the benches in the park expect people misusing them. The effects of the drugs being sold in that park were felt for blocks around the park. The police arrested people and they were back in that same park before the cops could make another arrest.

      All that being said, its probably for the winter.

      • I used to live in that area a little over a year ago and remember walking by in the middle of the day to see people’s laundry draped all over the benches, park packed with people living in the open air, etc. Couldn’t really walk through it at night either because it just did not feel safe, people with varying degrees of mental illness and drug problems hanging out, who knows. Maybe they were harmless, maybe they weren’t, I don’t know and I’m not going to be the dumb girl who gets jacked walking by at night and then faces comments about how stupid I was to take that risk. I agree that people with these problems need help and I’d like my taxes to pay for that help, but I don’t see how letting people live in what purports to be a public space helps anyone.

        • Do you have a suggestion of where they should live? Or is the problem that you can see it?

          • DC-KT, I agree. I meant that no one really even had a chance to enjoy them in the first place.

            Northzax, you need to RE-Lax. The problem was not people living there peacefully, which honestly is a problem due to sanitation, safety and 100 other reasons, the problem was drug dealing and public intoxication to the point of making the place very dangerous.

            There are housing facilities for people who are without housing. The condition of that housing is something that needs to be addressed along with the fact that people living on the streets is a really f-ing bad idea.

          • Where should they live? How about Texas, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, etc. where you can buy a 4 bedroom home for under $200,000.00? You could house 4-6 individuals in each house, plus buy another nearby home for social workers and pay them 80k to care for/rehabilitate/re-integrate these people who need help.

          • Well, depending on the nature of their situation, group homes, drug treatment centers, or free housing with job training and help to improve their situation? How does leaving people with no options and serious problems to live in a public park solve anything?

        • +1 to this. I live 4 blocks north of this park and walk by it anytime I go to Chinatown. I once saw a shirtless man “wearing” a 20ft long chain around his neck (it appeared to have come from a construction site) and dragging behind him as he walked down the sidewalk yelling profanities at anyone who walked by him. There are countless other people that are clearly either on drugs or have mental issues. I agree that they need somewhere to sleep, but using a public park as a permanent home doesn’t work. Glad the benches are gone and I can now feel a little more at ease when my GF has to walk home at night.

          • ” can now feel a little more at ease when my GF has to walk home at night.”
            .
            This might be asking a lot but you know that you could be more at ease by just walking her home yourself, right? (Obviously that could be a lot of time if it’s every day but….)

          • That kind of sounds like some rad performance art. He should’ve been doing this close to the White House though for max effect.

    • In the city’s defense, people have been championing to have the benches removed. Even on this blog so it looks like they got their wish.

    • Or maybe it’s a solution to a typical DC problem: too many adults who act like children.

    • When I was in grade school, the principle tried to punish our whole class for misbehaving when the teacher was out of the room and they were listening in on us through the intercom. I don’t remember all the details, but I know I actually wrote an objection – citing illegal evesdropping as well as group punishment for un-determined transgressors – and my dad backed me up and the principle was fired a few months later. She had other issues, so I don’t know that my efforts really had an impact, but it certainly made me understand that an individual could have power against the “system.”

  • Hate to say I’m glad about the benches being removed, but as a neighbor who walks by all the time, it sounds like a good basic move to discourage loitering. There were increasing numbers of people who seemed to camp out there and many of them fought and yelled constantly. and some passed out. Lately, the police and ambulances were called there a lot. Will be interesting to see if the only repercussions from the bench removal are positive.

  • Had a meeting last night with the police LT. for the Chinatonwn area. Said that in addition to the benches being removed, the police were actively arresting people for selling drugs and other crimes in the park. Was a joint effort by the NPS and DC Metro police.

  • I live in an area that had a similar problem with a park. Vagrants basically living in the park. Drunkenness. Drugs. Repeated ambulance calls. Many residents feeling unsafe walking by and some getting verbally attacked and/or harassed…on and on and on it went.

    Many, many community members actively tried to assist the main people who occupied the park. Homeless assistance, transitional housing, mental health assistance, work programs, drug rehab, anything and everything. For 10+ years. They never left. Never. There was no solution.

    One day the city came in and basically dozed the park. Spent a lot of money doing it too. Most of the people who occupied the park tried to find another location to hang…but eventually they left. It took a while.

    No one won with this solution. Everyone was unhappy. It still comes up occasionally and is still a sore point in the community. However, everything else was tried…over and over and over. At least now the space feels safe…for everyone. Not just the crew of 10-20 who migrated in and out.

    I think there are times when doing what is drastic to reclaim public space for the majority and not the minority is the only thing that can be done. It doesn’t mean it’ll be easy or painless for everyone.

    I hope that removing the benches and the extra policing works for Chinatown. We still don’t have benches and I don’t forsee any coming back anytime soon, either even though it’s been a few years.

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