pain sculpture

“Dear Former Neighbors,

As a favor to the folks who will simply stop reading and disregard whatever is written below based solely on race, let me save you the time and start by saying that my wife and I are black. I say this not to elicit snark or engender sympathy or because it should matter, but just as a basis of fact in a city where you can’t seem to have a conversation without taking race into consideration.

I moved here in late 2003 after college and a tour in the Marine Corps. Like so many other people, I moved to the region for work. I thought I’d be here for a short time but life happened, and I made the District my home.

Oddly enough, all of my positions and jobs were in MD or VA, but I was one of those who enjoyed urban living and made the reverse commute. I endured the embarrassing things our elected officials did and the backwater way our city operated because the urban-ish lifestyle seemed to be one that I should endure these things for.

We aren’t looking for a trophy or a gold star, but my wife (former Navy) and I (atleast on paper) are the kind of residents jurisdictions try to lure. Highly paid DINKS, we pay a lot in taxes but use relatively few public services as we’ve yet to have kids. We actively participated in and tried to improve our community. We both had spent years (5 and 7 respectively) tutoring DC middle and high school students in STEM courses. Kid-less, we still participated in the yearly DCPS summer “all hands on deck” to help clean, paint and landscape local schools before school started, occasionally volunteered at the local hospital, food banks etc.

I met my wife here. We started out buying a condo in Woodley Park, then made the jump and bought a row home in on Kenyon street in Columbia Heights in 2006. At the time, there were fewer people living or socializing in Columbia Heights. You were confronted by the occasional day-drunk and discarded used condoms on the sidewalk, but the neighborhood then was significantly different, and for the first few years we lived there and it was the picture of urban renewal. More than a billion dollars of private development in the neighborhood took form in a matter of a few years, and even more since. DC schools have always been atrocious but at the time we had decided to try to stay in DC regardless and simply “hope” that there would be significant short term educational gains, or resigned ourselves to pay for private school when the time came.

Then a few years ago the positive changes in Columbia Heights seemingly started to reverse. The streets of Columbia Heights filled with unbelievable quantities of trash. It was as though people from all over DC were coming to Columbia Heights specifically to throw trash on the street. The amount of crime skyrocketed. Robbery’s, assaults, burglary became a more frequent issue. Not a week went by in the last couple of years living there where at least one car on the short street I live on hadn’t gotten broken into. I had to get one of those roll down steel doors across the back of my lot because all of a sudden, out of nowhere 4 years after we moved in, people started breaking into homes via the alley. Nearly every house (15 in total over 6 months) on our block got hit, some twice and despite the cops taking prints and finding the criminals already had been in the system, there was seemingly no consequence to their actions. People also started defecating with some regularity in the alley and on the sidewalks. Constant pleas by the entire neighborhood to the ANC, the police the Council member go ignored for months and years. The only time someone from the ANC or Council gets involved is around election time, and the involvement stops immediately after.

At least 2 or 3 times a year I would walk out of my house in the morning to go to work and find some passed out / strung out guy on my lawn or adjacent neighbors lawn, covered in his own urine or vomit or actively hitting the crack pipe in the middle of the day. People started ripping out landscaping plants and bushes we (or my neighbors) had planted, apparently to take home and plant because they simply disappeared. Who does that?

A new and very visible drug trade has appeared in multiple places in the neighborhood. Unbelievably the most visible example is right at the Columbia Heights metro stop where it happens in full view of cops who sit there in their cars on their Facebook, or otherwise couldn’t care less. And I am not talking about weed here, but serious narcotics.

The straw that broke the camels back was when I apparently had the audacity to remind a young twenty something that my lawn wasn’t his trash can as he walked by and threw his discarded chicken wings on my lawn. I was standing less than 10 feet away when he did it and decided to ask him what he was doing.

Like all young thugs I’ve encountered, he “ran hot” which meant he went from zero to full-rage in about a millisecond. After ~20 seconds of screaming every four letter word and negative gentrification invective in the book at me (he and I are the same race but that seemed to elude him), he started towards me, pulled up his shirt to show me his gun and told me he was going to shoot me (I’ve actually cleaned that language up quite a bit, I will let your imagination run with what he really said). I grew up in rural VT, hunted in my childhood, spent time in the Corps and am extremely comfortable around firearms, but I had never had one pulled on me before, or the threat of it. I simply reacted out of fear, grabbed him by the neck with one hand, put my hand on his gun with the other so he couldn’t draw it and slammed his head into the retaining wall in front of my house while trying to disarm him. (more…)

DIStrict

From an email:

The District is a 3-episode deep dive into community issues around DC – from homeless families navigating DC General, the fight for Barry Farms, food incubators and community gardens to the Goodman League, H Street redevelopment and the impact of rapid city change on small and new businesses.

The series was the winning idea — from first-time director, Will McKinley– for WHUT TV’s local series competition, My Big Show. More than 50 entries for show ideas came from DC residents in 2015 with the promise of a guaranteed production budget and airing of the winning entry. The project was an attempt to identify and incubate local content that can someday be the future of public media.

The series airs 6/22, 6/29 and July 6 at 9pm on WHUT TV (PBS-32).”

NC Gardens

Ed. Note: You may also wish to contact the Mobile Crisis Team (MCS). “The team is part of the Dept of Mental Health’s Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program which operates 3 mental health programs:

Psychiatric Emergency Services (PES): 202-673-9319 (24hrs, 7 days per week)
Mobile Crisis Services (MCS): 202-673-9300 (9am -1am, 7 days per week)
Homeless Outreach Program (HOP): 202-673-9124 (9am -8pm , M-F)

Also you can call 311, 911 or 1(888)7WE-HELP (1-888-793-4357).”

“Dear PoPville,

At 6:05pm, Tuesday, at the corner of 16th at North Carolina Ave NE, I saw a disheveled, 45-50ish woman rolling a big suitcase with a few bags hanging from it. She rolled to the front of our building and hung out on the side walk, like she was looking for someone. I went out the back stairway, but when I came around the building on my bike, she had pulled a bottle of cleaning fluid and was dumping/flinging it everywhere (and unfortunately focusing on the buzzer). I yelled at her, asked her what the hell she was doing, and started taking photos. She yelled at me about termites, scorpions, coming from the crust of the earth, etc etc etc. A neighbor stepped out for a cigarette and saw her walking back to her bags. She packed her bags and left.

Anyone else have issues like this?”

tripping man

Ed. Note: You may also wish to contact the Mobile Crisis Team (MCS). “The team is part of the Dept of Mental Health’s Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program which operates 3 mental health programs:

Psychiatric Emergency Services (PES): 202-673-9319 (24hrs, 7 days per week)
Mobile Crisis Services (MCS): 202-673-9300 (9am -1am, 7 days per week)
Homeless Outreach Program (HOP): 202-673-9124 (9am -8pm , M-F)

Also you can call 311, 911 or 1(888)7WE-HELP (1-888-793-4357).”

“Dear PoPville,

I’d like to let you, PoPville, and the community know about a man in the Shaw area (around Florida and Georgia Aves NW) coming up to people and harassing them for (I assume) money by putting his hand in front of people’s faces (he doesn’t actually speak minus some mumbling: “come on”, “gimme” etc.) and following you if you try to walk away.

I first saw this man on Saturday (6/4) – he was tripping people as they tried dodging him and walking away, and after tripping them, he would move on to the next passerby. At one point, he even took a bunch of balloons near the soon-opening Cava and popped them in a bunch of people’s faces as they waited for a stoplight to change. (more…)

anti-atv

“Dear PoPville,

Now that summer is here, we seem to be having an increase of Dirt Bike drag racing on Columbia Rd and 18th in Adams Morgan. Now, I normally hear the sound of motorcycles and other loud vehicles often times, but this is unique because 1) They are drag racing in the middle of the night, 2) This has been a common occurrence not only weekend nights, but also nights in the middle of the work week. I heard in the past that the police have had problems with dirt bike riders, and disturbing the peace and making loud noises in the middle of the night is not something to be proud of. Plus, people riding the bikes could get seriously hurt. I want to see if any Adams Morgan residents have heard the same things, and if so maybe we can band together and ask the Police to do something about it.”

park police
Photo by PoPville flickr user John Sonderman

“Dear PoPville,

I know we have some lawyers & at least one cop on this blog and hoping they can give advice for police encounters. Today I witnessed a sad and disturbing encounter with US Park Police this afternoon – 2:30 pm. in Meridian Hill Park. Walking my dog, ordinary day, saw 3 cops investigating the bathrooms, then strolling around. The usual homeless guys sleeping on benches, nannies with babies, joggers etc.

But then the cops clustered around a couple on a blanket and things got crazy. Accusing them of pot smoking – said someone had called in a report – yeah right. The couple was completely compliant and non-confrontational. They let the cops search their bags, let them see they did indeed have one joint in a Tupperware container. The cops bullied and escalated things beyond any sensible level. “have you ever been arrested?” “Are you sure?”

I’ve lived over 30 years in Columbia Heights – I know when people are being obnoxious or belligerent. This couple was totally non-confrontational. And there was absolutely NO smell of pot anywhere near them! This was absolutely clearly a case of police belligerence. (more…)

From a press release:

“Metropolitan Wellness Center (MWC), a cannabis dispensary located in Washington, D.C., today announces the release of Cannabis in the Capital, a virtual reality experience taking consumers behind the scenes to see how cannabis is produced and prepared for sale in the district. (more…)

MALL
Photo by PoPville flickr user Jarrett Hendrix

“Dear PoPville,

I like to jog on the Mall in the morning and have done so for years. Lately, a pair of women there have fixated on me as a “criminal” who is following them. This started 6-8 weeks ago. They dress all in black, including sunglasses, hats, and black winter earcovers no matter the weather, and carry black garbage bags. I have never spoken to them, have no idea who they are. I wandered too close to them, I guess, and they both pointed at me and scream-chanted in unison “Criminal! See something, say something, criminal! Never come near us again!” over and over and over. I was weirded out and a little scared (“Invasion of the Body Snatchers” scarred me as a kid) but I just ran away and chalked it up to life in the Big City. (more…)