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Consultant to Old Soldiers Home Responds to Recent Post

by Prince Of Petworth November 9, 2009 at 3:00 pm 74 Comments

Old Soldier's Home Driving Range

I received the following email from a consultant to the Home:

“I am usually reluctant to get involved in a neighborhood discussion but was startled and disturbed by a number of factual inaccuracies in the comments section of your blog concerning the Armed Forces Retirement Home. I am a consultant to the home.
It is important for neighbors to realize that this is not a zero-sum game. AFRH has been on that site for more than 150 years. It was located on farm land that was outside the confines of the District of Columbia at the time and existed long before the city neighborhood that now surrounds it.

The land was purchased with war booty from the Mexican American war and has been held in trust by the federal government for the exclusive benefit of military retirees and combat veterans since before the Civil War. The law is explicitly clear on this point. The land cannot just be given away for other purposes. It must be used for military veterans.

The Home needs revenue because it does not receive an annual appropriation. It relies upon a Trust Fund established with that war booty and replenished with contributions from active duty military. The Master Plan for development of one corner of the campus, the southeast corner, includes a large 22 acre public park. That development is approved but presently on hold until market conditions improve. The expectation is the neighborhood will have access to a truly lovely public park when development takes place.

There are NO plans to sell any of our land. There will be long term ground leases in the development approved by the National Capitol Planning Commission which is about 77 acres. There are also NO plans for development on the portion of the campus next to the Petworth and Parkview neighborhoods at this time. The residents use that land for a golf course and for recreational purposes. More than 1,000 residents live at the Home and “Mark” should know that every single young warrior disabled by combat injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan is technically eligible to live in our community. Our youngest resident, in fact, is only 47 and is a veteran of the Gulf War. We foresee generations of veterans who will need and deserve our services.

This a long way of saying we appreciate that some neighbors look at this campus and see trees, grass and a public park but, in fact, it is a home and community of and for veterans. This is their land; they are using it every day; and we fully expect American veterans to be using it for generations to come.

And one final point, public access to AFRH has been severely restricted for more than 40 years for security purposes. The average age of our residents is 80; the oldest is well over 100 years of age. We all understand the risks and dangers of living in the heart of a busy, vibrant city. If one of our elderly residents were to be mugged, he might die. Security is an enormously important concern to our residents who have been mugged many times just steps from our gate at the bus stop on Rock Creek Park Road. Neighbors need to have some appreciation of the vulnerability of a community of older men and women.”

  • EdTheRed

    “And one final point, public access to AFRH has been severely restricted for more than 40 years for security purposes.”

    Yep…severely restricted for security purposes since a few months after the ’68 riots. Cause, meet effect. Maybe, just maybe, it’s time to revisit that policy.

  • Anonymous

    It has always been within the confines of the District of Columbia. It was not in the city of Washington perhaps, and in Washington County, but always within the District.

  • Take5

    Tim Cox tried to get approval to develop the petworth and parkview sides but failed, which means he ought to be interested in leasing or selling it to the city, NPS, or conservatory for use as a park. What was your point? The McMillian plan recognizes this part of the property as a public park for the neighborhood so what are you trying to say?

  • christopher

    i dont blame them for keeping the grounds on such tight lock down, decades after the riots. actually, with the animals that live and kill in this city and the apologists who love them, i would build the fence a little taller.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve heard this stance before about a mysterious war booty trust paying for everything. How much was in this trust? Must have been a heck of a lot to support a facility like this. golf course and all on that much acreage. Either way I’m assuming they benefit from tax exemptions and receive some sort of federal subsidies. Maybe that’s not the case but to pretend that they deserve to live in and play golf in their ivory tower and owe the community nothing seems a little suspect to me. And frankly smacks of latent racism. I suspect as the neighborhood improves, access to the grounds will improve along side it. I dont see how it’s any different from a college campus. AU is a private university but allows the community on its grounds.

  • Park View

    “There are also NO plans for development on the portion of the campus next to the Petworth and Parkview neighborhoods at this time.”

    … I like how he ended it with “at this time.” The reason this came up a few years ago was because development was considered for the areas closest to Petworth and Park View … by the Soldiers’ Home.

    For land that is for the veterans with NO plans to sell, that doesn’t mean a sale isn’t possible. All the land EAST of North Capitol USED TO BE part of the Soldiers’ Home. All the land that the Washington Hospital Center is on USED TO BE part of the Soldiers’ Home.

    As someone that lives across from this land and looks upon it every day, tell me, how are the veterans useing the lakes near Park Road today? They aren’t. They are fenced off because they are a risk to the veterans. Neighborhood children used to sail boats in those lakes. Neighbors used to have picnics on that land. Today I see it mowed every once in a while, but I don’t see it really used.

    I’ll grant that I DO see veterans using the community garden, but not frequently.

  • Goot Lemmon

    I had always heard that a large part of the grounds was intended under the McMillan plan to be a public park for the entire city’s enjoyment, akin to Central Park. Is this just a myth?

  • Anonymous

    To Anon at 3:20, I think we owe our veterans, not vice versa.

  • Anonymous

    They are veterans, they deserve our great respect. And this is their home. It would be ideal to have a solution that allowed the neighbors to enjoy the park as well, of course, and I’m sure some smart folks can come up with a plan that serves both communities. But, in the end, this is their home, and the neighborhood should not, and likely cannot, ‘imminent domain’ the land. Rather, maybe the AFRH could find some way to make money off letting the land go to a more public use…?

  • Anonymous

    Actually it is not “their” land. It belongs to the federal government.

  • Anonymous

    support our troops. support our troops. if it weren’t for them we would all be speaking mexican. They beat the mexicans and took their war booty chest and made a golf course fair and square. let them be.

  • Anonymous

    To Anon at 3:48,

    don’t be obtuse or unnecessarily argumentative. It does not further reasoned public debate.

    Assuming the OP wasn’t dissembling, the land has “been held in trust by the federal government for the exclusive benefit of military retirees and combat veterans since before the Civil War. The law is explicitly clear on this point. The land cannot just be given away for other purposes. It must be used for military veterans.”

    In shorthand, it is ‘their’ land.

  • @GootLemmon

    That’s what I know too, both the reservoir and the AFRH sites were open to the public as the tipe of park that Central Park is — not a forest preserve, but an actually recreationally focused park — including access to the water. The area had long been a site of public use, beginning with the Rock Creek cemetery area that was a favorite spot to escape DC summers. (There’s a reason that Lincoln made his summer White House up their.)

    The Veterans may have claims to area, but they are public employees serving and paid for by public moneys. The land should be returned to being accessible by the people, just as it was intended and where there is considerable historic precedence.

  • Anonymous

    According to wikipedia, the AFRH is “located on a beautiful 250-acre (1.0 km2) wooded campus.” Assuming there are 1,000 residents, that’s 0.25 acres per resident. That’s 10,890 square feet per resident. I think we can say that the residents deserve our utmost respect and reverence, but we can also say that 10,890 square feet of land in the heart of the city to one person seems wasteful.

  • Rob

    I hear that they have a hoard of Aztec gold buried underneath the grounds somewhere. That is probably why they don’t want to open it up.

  • Cliff

    Its interesting to me that a consultant for the home felt compelled to respond to our drive to get residents to help identify this land as a “possibility” for public greenspace in the capital spaces paln. That tells me that they are really interested in stamping out any ideas other than the development that they have already tried to get approved. They will be trying to get that development approved again, you can bank on it.

    It is federal property(does not belong to just veterans that do not use it), and is identified as park space in the McMillian Plan, and can be reopened to the public again.

    As far as funding for AFRH goes – they have gotten our tax money in the past and will in the future. This land belongs to all of us – not the developers who are seeing dollar signs.

  • Anonymous

    am i alone in being a bit disgusted that people are getting all technical and uppity in their arguments to take something away from anything that can benefit veterans?
    hell, i live this near and would be happy to have development and/or public park space there as i would use it, but come on people. just because the government owns the land doesn’t mean it should be open to the public.

    i’ll stand by whatever i think most benefits veterans in this.

  • Jay’O

    I see a WIN-WIN here:

    Most of this development talk always seems to revolve around the need for the Solier’s home to stay financially viable. We hear stories about how these brave souls do not have the $$$ in the trust to keep it going forever.

    Ok, so why doesn’t the community and the City at large lobby the US Congress to Support our troops and pony up a little more $? Sure the economy is bad, but this is a long-term responsibility for the US people to support these guys.

    If we can remove this excuse for development, maybe the Solider’s home would agree to abandon development plans and even open a small portion to share with their neighbors. Personaly, I would be fine with them not opening any up to the public if they agreeded not to develop this precious green space. This agreement could be spelled out in the legislation approving the increased funding…

    What does everyone think?

  • Anonymous

    Do they have any matter-of-right to develope the land in the first place? Can the neighbors not block attempts to rezone their land etc? They must have some bargaining power. And clearly the stance that its all paid for by a mysterious trust and that the poor old people use the land is bogus and placed in this blog and others via PR people or people with a vested interest in the lands value. As many have mentioned anyone who walks their dog around here knows you never see any old people milling about the grounds. Its just a waste. Which is why the facility has sought to develope them in the first place. To argue the residents use and need the land and in the same breath try and lure developement to said land is just ridiculous.

  • Jon

    Since the veterans clearly aren’t using all those 250 acres of parkland, how would it benefit them to keep it fenced off from everyone?

  • Jay’O

    BS meter is ringing HIGH here:

    “There are NO plans to sell any of our land. There will be long term ground leases in the development approved by the National Capitol Planning Commission which is about 77 acres.”

    Tell me how long-term “ground leasses” materially differ from selling the land????? That’s the same as the DCPS schools having 99 year leases for surplus school – basically it is off limits for anyone who can read this and doesn’t plan on living for another 100 years (including the Veterns!)

    I’m not against the Veterns – I just don’t want them to be bad neighbors and just blow away open space so they can make Money. As I mentioned above, if Money is the issue – let’s see congressmen vote against retired soliders while we are at war!

  • Lisa

    Anon at 4:07, no you are not. I live two blocks from Soldiers Home, and I drive by the golf course every day. I would love to have the public park be as close to me as possible, but not at the expense of the veterans who currently enjoy it. I also believe that the consultant who wrote this letter simply meant to educate the public on the facts about this particular area, and genuinely ask for ideas on developing any future plans for the available space. Speaking as a museum professional with experience in National Parks, we need all the help we can get with these plans sometimes.

    And if you ever want to visit the campus, go to the Lincoln’s Cottage museum and historic house which is in the courtyard. You can’t go onto the greenspace, but you can see the architecture and It tells a wonderful story about Lincoln’s life on the property during the Civil War. (full disclosure, I worked there as a docent for a while)

  • Anonymous

    # Jon Says:
    November 9th, 2009 at 4:12 pm

    Since the veterans clearly aren’t using all those 250 acres of parkland, how would it benefit them to keep it fenced off from everyone?

    you’re right. because they don’t use it currently, they clearly never will.

  • Sam E J

    I personally think we should just leave the Veterans be.

  • Anonymous

    Veterans are saints and heroes. Be careful not so say anything bad about them.

  • ” the oldest is well over 100 years of age”

    Well over 100 years old? Really? What qualifies as “well” over 100? Is that home filled with veterans from the Civil War? Revolutionary War?

  • Lisa

    Most likely from WWI, or was older when he participated in WWII. Also I saw a number of veterans out on the golf course today as I was driving home, so the argument that they don’t use the land is moot. Heck, on a day like today, I would be playing golf too if I knew how!

  • Me

    green spaces fenced off or otherwise benefit all of us as is. hello, oxygen.

    plus this is the greenest city around whats the big hullaballoo?

    get off your arses and go to rock creek or the arboretum or the national mall.

  • Cliff

    Actually, there are a laundry list of covenants, laws, and procedures tied to that property that do give normal average citizens ability to stop development of the land.

    Jay’O – NCPC has already required AFRH to work with the community on creating a public park there, but they have not responded to any of Washington Central Parks requests to start this process. They have offered to help raise money, but the leadership at AFRH isn’t interested. The CFO’s goal with that land is his vision and his alone. He wants condos, and I’d be surprised if he wasn’t making money off the deal because that is the only thing he is willing to talk about. He has more than enough reason to work with the community on this. No one has ever said they should not be paid for the land. They have been trying to block this land from being identified as park space in the capital spaces plan because it will provide yet another hurdle for building condos, which we do not need more of.

  • Anonymous

    Lisa- You don’t really know what you are talking about as nobody is talking about taking the golf course away. Just asking for public access to the western most sliver where ther ponds are that currently sit unused by the residents.

  • Anonymous

    Also, those golfing may very well not have been veterans. I know I have a membership to the course, and I most certainly am not a member.

    But open it up to the public!

  • Anon

    wow let them have their land. These guys sacrificed their lives for the country.

  • anon

    Part of me wants development and a public park. But on the other hand I think the neighborhood is not ready for that yet. I’m afraid the public park will turn into a drug market or a place for public drinking and a hang out place for shady characters after dark.

  • Anonymous

    Wow. An awful lot of self-serving arguments here. If the land is held in trust for the veterans, it’s up to them (or whoever runs the home/serves as trustee) to decide how — and by whom — the property should be used. End of story. Assuming the consultant’s facts aren’t wrong, I take his penultimate paragraph as the best (and probably unnecessarily polite) way of stating it: it’s for the soldiers to do with as they please, and as much as the neighbors may relish getting a free ride off a nice piece of property, it’s not up to them to make that decision, or even have much of a say in it.

    I will add that it seems there is a potential win-win here. AFRH needs money, and people nearby want to use the land, so sell annual memberships to folks who would like access to the property at a high enough price (a couple hundred bucks, maybe) that the revenues more than offset the admin costs and increased security risks to residents and profit AFRH. Priced high enough, you’re probably not going to see the type of scum who would mug a WWII vet making his way onto the grounds.

  • Anonymous

    “wow let them have their land. These guys sacrificed their lives for the country.”

    I think the issue is that they don’t ‘use’ their land. Really. There is a giant piece of garden space in from of my house and I see people out there maybe once of twice a year. Why not turn it into a community garden. Social interaction for the veterans + a space that is well used. I don’t think anyone is trying to take the land from the veterans. I think we are talking about using land more efficiently and for the benefit of all (again, what it used to be.)

    “I’m afraid the public park will turn into a drug market or a place for public drinking and a hang out place for shady characters after dark.”

    Close the park at night. Really this wouldn’t be a difficult thing to accomplish if the idea of a public space was actually given an ounce of thought by AFRH. And no, buidling condos and having some space reserved doesn’t count.

    If we are really looking out for what is best for the residents, I think it is trying to find a way to keep funding up while keeping their space pristine. If additional federal funding could be allocated based on the decision to open up certain parts of the Home as park space, this would serve everyone.

  • Anonymous

    # Anon Says: at 4:38 pm

    “wow let them have their land. These guys sacrificed their lives for the country.”

    I believe the veterans there are living…


  • This neighborhood is not only ready for it, it needs it. I do not see a lot of public drinkig around here and there are more than enough good people in this neighborhood to keep the park busy.

  • A Veteran

    AFRH isn’t a charity. Or, more accurately, it isn’t a charity YOU pay for. It’s paid for by a payroll deduction from each and every active-duty GI. And the proceeds of every punitive fine paid by a GI.

    So, for all those who somehow feel “entitled” to a piece of the AFRH: if you haven’t paid into it, please kindly sod off.

  • Anonymous

    @ A Veteran.

    If you think your payroll contributions are coming close to paying for the care, you are quite wrong.

    Our tax payer dollars handle a LARGE chunk of the expenses of the home.

  • Thor

    A Veteran,

    I don’t feel entitled to this land, but where do you think that payroll money comes from?

  • Prince Of Petworth

    This comment is from IMGoph but I’m posting due to some technical difficulties:

    “the fact is, there is absolutely no reason why there can’t be recreation opportunities on the space for everyone. this isn’t a zero-sum game. the old soldiers and the people who live outside the retirement community could all get to know each other, become friendly, etc., in shared space.

    the canard about getting mugged is a scare tactic. sure, some people have been mugged at the bus stop. i’m not saying that people’s safety shouldn’t be taken into consideration, but if that’s the only reason for throwing up a huge wall around the place, you might as well wrap the old folks in bubble wrap. you can’t protect people from the world 100% of the time. i’d wager that a 100 year-old man has more of a chance of falling and breaking his hip than he does of being mugged while waiting for a bus just outside the fence.

    it’s a shame that this consultant felt the need to be so defensive. an open dialogue would be better than preaching from above.

    maybe dan, as the proprietor of this site and a resident of the neighborhood (petworth), could take some concrete steps to open up this dialogue between the community and the AFRH, yeah?”

  • Prince Of Petworth

    So would folks be interested in IMGoph’s suggestion of me setting up a dialogue/meeting with AFRH?

  • Ross

    Dan, absolutely. I’ll be here if it happens.

  • Anonymous

    My neighbor has a small pool in his backyard. He also has a nice garden. My apartment building does not have any of these ameneties; he actually has the only garden and only pool (within walking distance) in my neighborhood. What really gets on my nerves is that I notice that he doesn’t use his pool enough and doesn’t spend enough time in his garden. Sometimes days go by in which I don’t even see him in the backyard using his garden and pool. I see him sitting in the garden sometimes but he definitely isn’t doing anything. He just sits there enjoying the peace and quiet. Sometimes I see him just looking at it and enjoying it from inside his house. Its ridiculous. Why isn’t he using it? I just don’t get it.

    All the people in my building can see his pool and his garden but he won’t let everyone in the neighborhood use it, even though we would definitely use it more than he does and for much more important things. I know we would use it more because at least half of his day is taken up by all this fancy medical treatment he receives on account of the fact that he’s like 90 years old and had a grenade go off next to his face when he fought in some war that took place a long time ago.

    Is there anything I can do to get the government to solve my horrible problem? I demand that this individual share his private property with me.

  • Petworth Newbie

    It’s true that even unused green space is a public benefit i.e. cleaner air & water, wildlife habitat, greener city…not every bit of green space needs to be set up so more humans can trample all over it. That said I was kind of disappointed when I moved up here, hoping to go for veteran-endangering walks with my stroller (?) and realized the only way to enjoy the grounds is to be a disabled veteran or sneak away during a tour of the Lincoln cottage. When I called to see if I could access the grounds, the guy responded “That’s a negative, ma’am.”

  • Eric the Enforcer

    anon 5:30 thank you very much. PoP, IMGoph what right have you? Honestly? It’s like some weird post modern manifest destiny ideal. Oh Oh I see greenspace, I live in a city. I want, I need, it’s only fair. Just a tremendous amount of misguided license. Hyper civic gen x parents suck.

  • ro

    what a miserable group of people

  • Ross

    anon 5:30 and Eric the Enforcer

    A couple of flaws in your idiotic analogy:

    1) Your neighbor owns his pool. Tax payers do not subsidize it.
    2) Your neighbor does not own one of the largest expanses of green space in the city.

    A couple of things you need to consider to understand the issues here:

    1) The idea of this space being used by someone besides veterans was brought up BY AFRH. They want to sell use of the land to developers to build stuff. What some of us would like instead is that this space be used as public park space and for the federal government devote additiional funds for this use. So again, this is not the case of a bunch of residents hoping to use someone else’s swimming pool. This is the case of a bunch of residents that CARE about the veterans and see a compromise in turning this land into public use rather than building condos.

    2) The AFRH space is expansive and federally funded (be it through direct federal dollars or federal payroll taxes.) MUCH of the land is not used and is in neglect (note the two large ponds in Park View that are simply mosquito breeding grounds at this point.) The idea here is that the space could be better served and better funded if it were to turn into park space. When the neighborhoods here were built in the 20s, the layout was conceived of as coexisting with the then-open-to-the-public soldier’s home. That was the public’s green space. Then the race riots hit and the doors closed on this. We are just hoping to reopen an issue.

  • Wanna Help

    What a great site, really. Not miserable at all, just engaged….but…

    What I want to know is who to call to provide assistance to the retirees in the home, how to contribute to their fund, when the NCPC hearings are, and how best to engage. I am young and able, and I bet many readers are too. Do the residents there need some assistance from time to time, and if so how does that happen? How can we help them build something that will be viewed as a positive advancement from all?

    On a larger scale, who does one call in the military to provide direct assitance to families that have lost folks in our recent wars (i,.e., donated private overnight accommodations)? I have spare apartment/rooms that could house a new widow/grieving family/wounded support from time to time for free.

  • st

    This is some of the most ridiculous hyper-entitled crap yet seen on this site, and that’s saying something. Just because you want it, all of a sudden a hundred reasons appear to your mind as to why it is unfair for you not to have it. It’s not selfishness! Why, its a matter of basic fairness! We demand a meeting!

    PoP, don’t broker a meeting. It will only result in the OSH telling the PoPsters to stuff it, generating another post like this, and more comments threads, and more moaning about how there are not sufficient golfing veterans to justify the current restrictions.

    Do you seriously believe that the OSH is a luxury facility? Go out on N. Capitol and look at the dormitory buildings, and tell me whether the people who live in those barracks really need to have things taken away from them. These are veterans dying poor and lonely. Then you moved in, and suddenly they became moochers, taking up too much precious green space better used for your morning jog and your outdoor yoga. Go f**k yourselves.

  • JulesonPrinceton

    st, seriously…moochers, luxury facitilies, where is that coming from. I believe what is being requested is an examination of all the alternatives for this space. Including, opening up some of the space for public use again. Keeping up barriers and keeping out neighbors isn’t going to make any vet less poor or less lonely.

  • Ace in DC

    Leave the AFRH alone! Everyone! If you live near there, at least appreciate the fact that you can look at (but not touch) a beautiful green space that is not overrun with nail salons, fast food Chinese joints, and gang bangers.

    Let the Vets have their green space. The Vets don’t need a public park for homeless/gangs/hookers/yuppies to hang out in. Put their needs first as they all served their country and selflessly put their country’s needs first (including all of the residents of NW DC).

    Respect the Veteran residents’ sacrifices and special needs for a quiet safe home, and quit crying over it.

    Happy Veteran’s Day.

    – New CH Vet

  • active duty officer

    Just to clarify a (very) small item:

    > “Mark” should know that every single young warrior disabled by combat injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan is technically eligible to live in our community.

    True, if the young warrior isn’t an officer. The home is, for all practical purposes, only open to enlisted members of the armed forces. They pay the $1 or 2 a month to support the home. Officers are only eligible if they have served > 10 years as an enlisted member, if memory serves.

    As a Petworth resident and active duty officer, I do see both sides of this coin. I think that the home should remain largely as it is now, but that small development (perhaps no more than 25%) can work. Should local residents get access to green space? Sure, but I don’t see it happening.

  • Cliff

    All, please see page 4: http://home.comcast.net/~anc1a08/AFRH%20Master%20Plan%20NCPC%20Decision.pdf

    They are supposed to be working with the community to determine the feesiblity of turning this into a park. Dan, if you do set up a meeting make sure you do it on a date that Washington Central Parks reps can attend. They have been trying to set up this meeting for over a year.

  • SG

    I think the best and most obvious solution is this:

    Knowing that the Home won’t win zoning approval to develop the section of their “campus” along Park Place (but can develop large swaths of the rest of the land closer to Washington Hospital Center), the city should offer a fair market value to ground-lease the space as a public park. It would probably come to something like $1 million per year… which for a world class park, isn’t the end of the world. Even if the AFRH ground leased it to the highest bidding developer, it wouldn’t receive the equivalent of $1MM per year for what is not even close to being Class A location for office space.

  • Greg

    Certainly there should be some room for discussion and compromise. It seems that a lease to the City of Federal Government for park with a new fence inside the grounds to seperate the park from the home would be an attainable goal.
    In fact, I bet you would see a lot of the homes residence come out to the public park to be a part of the community.

    Not for sale long term lease. means 99 years or 2-3 generations. For us that will live and die through that lease,………….its pretty much a sale.

  • DCZen

    Anon at 5:30 — excellent analogy. The rest of you who think that just because you live close to this green space you are entitled to have access to it. Grow up! Leave what does not belong to you alone. And forget this argument that “your tax dollars paid for it” Again grow up!

  • quincycyclist

    Well said ST. The idea that the AFRH is some kind of luxurious spa resort gobbling up your tax dollars is ridiculous. Don’t these people deserve something for their service? Also, for those of you whining about how “my tax dollars” go to this and that and you don’t get to use it, that’s how the system works. Not everybody gets to use food stamps. Not everybody gets medicaid. Not everybody gets to use the AFRH grounds. Get over it.

  • Mark

    Unless you can claim that you deserve part of Winfield Scott’s ransom, or have money deducted from your paycheck, I don’t think you deserve access at all. Furthermore, the ponds on the western side of the ground is where the Vets do their fishing. Drop the sense of entitlement and leave them alone.

    From the AFRH Website:
    “Congress finally approved a bill in 1851, following the Mexican War. In charge of American troops during the war, Scott now was considered an American hero. He returned with $150,000 that was paid to him by Mexico City, in lieu of ransacking. He paid off his troops, bought new supplies, and offered the remaining money to Congress to establish the Soldiers’ Home
    “Since the Home’s beginning, operational funding came from the soldiers (and later, airmen) themselves.
    A permanent trust fund was established nearly 150 years ago, and was fed by monthly, active duty payroll deductions of 25 cents, when the average pay of a soldier was $7 a month. Fines and forfeitures from the armed forces and the monthly withholding have provided the principal support for the Home throughout its history.”

  • st

    JulesonPrinceton: Christopher at 3:55 said that as vets are public employees, they don’t have real claims on the land and should get out of the way. Anonymous at 4:00 did some math and claimed (oh so clever) that each resident had 10k square feet, and wasn’t that a bit too much. Several others have made the point that the veterans don’t own the land, as if that meant something. Many posters have said that the vets “don’t use” the land, based on their scientific survey of driving past it every couple of days. Too irritated to look further. Not all federal land is public land.

  • Anonymous

    Couple of points on both sides:

    1600 people live there out of millions who are eligible, it’s not like we’re talking about shutting down the entire VA system or something.

    They do make the space available to the public by application — the DC Cyclocross race is held there, which is a boon to the organizers who would otherwise have to deal with NPS to get any other suitable venue in the district. On NPS land the same rules apply for offroad bicycles as for rabid dogs, except that rangers are supposed to collect the remains of rabid dogs and document the incident after shooting them.

    This is a green space that was open to all until we had race riots in ’68. It remains closed because the military thinks it cannot adequately defend a small enclave of relatively defenseless people in an area with occasional racial tensions and some small, disorganized but lightly armed bands of young men without establishing a massive security perimeter that shuts out the entire local community and monopolizes scarce resources. Based on the experience in Baghdad with the green zone, the military is correct in its estimation of its abilities but overly optimistic about the long-term feasibility.

  • Cliff

    Who the land belongs to is moot once the AFRH decides to use it for other purposes. If the AFRH is going to repurpose the land then the residents of the District have every right in the world to decide how it should be re-purposed. Just like I cannot repurpose my house from a home to a used car lot. Throwing out “veterans own this land” is a red-harring used to push through an agenda that does not have anything to do with veterans rights to the land. If AFRH is not going to do anything with that land then it is only through the AFRH generosity that residents of the District should expect access to it. If the AFRH is gong to develop it then we have every right in the world to turn it into publicly accessible green space. It says so in the McMilian Plan, the zoning maps, in the comprehensive plan, in the NCPC record of decision, and (now) the Capital Spaces Plan for Parks and Greenspace.

  • Geezer

    If the western side of the ARFH were ever to be public park land, I would want the fences and gatehouse to remain in place to “vet” (OK, pun intended) anyone entering or exiting the park space. Otherwise, it will become a dirty and dangerous place overrun with crime and inhospitable to law-abiding, well-mannered people.

    It’s sad, but true.

  • The fence is historic and cannot be removed but the entrances can be reactivated again

  • Marcus Aurelius

    Am I missing something? The consultant said:

    “The Master Plan for development of one corner of the campus, the southeast corner, INCLUDES A LARGE 22 ACRE PUBLIC PARK. That development is APPROVED BUT PRESENTLY ON HOLD until market conditions improve. The expectation is THE NEIGHBORHOOD WILL HAVE ACCESS TO A TRULY LOVELY PUBLIC PARK when development takes place.” (emphases mine)

    Unless I am reading this wrong, there is a PUBLIC PARK in the works. So what are the complaints about?

  • Take5

    The public park in that plan is a small park on the south east corner, inaccessible from Petworth. Its also in a private community.

    The wanted to develop the northwest corner also, but NCPC said no and told them to work with the community to build a park.

  • AF

    I’m concerned about the part of a previous post I have pasted below. If they are going to re-purpose their land, I hope it will be in a way that is community-friendly, and doesn’t just profit powerful people who make condos. Do the residents have any voice in the decision? Noisy imposing construction would affect the quality of life for those around there. It would be great for the residents, and for everyone, if they could be more connected and safely mingle in a nice park with the rest of the public. It sounds like that is how it used to be. Why do we put old people out of sight? Children should be able to interact with these soldiers and understand who they are. The part in question is pretty distant from their lodging, and too far to walk if you are disabled; there should be a shuttle for them to the bottom of the property. Is there a way to make a public park a source of revenue for the Home? I would totally get involved in making that happen, so tell me if there is a meeting. A shady deal with condo developers doesn’t help the veterans or the public. Is that really what is going on? It’s very hard to tell. Does that consultant represent the interests of the veterans, or the developer, or the person who makes decisions on behalf of the veterans, or who? Is it right that one person, the CFO, decide this? Is there any evidence of kickbacks?

    “NCPC has already required AFRH to work with the community on creating a public park there, but they have not responded to any of Washington Central Parks requests to start this process. They have offered to help raise money, but the leadership at AFRH isn’t interested. The CFO’s goal with that land is his vision and his alone. He wants condos, and I’d be surprised if he wasn’t making money off the deal because that is the only thing he is willing to talk about.”

  • Voiceofreason

    Please move our troops somewhere else, somewhere where theyare safe. They deserve no less.

  • Marcus Aurelius

    I understand that emotions are high but we should refrain from implying that decisionmakers at AFRH are motivated by some illegal purpose. The unsubstantiated speculation and innuendo is incredibly unfair. If you have specific evidence (not a hunch), please present it. If not, keep the allegations to yourself.
    The fact that AFRH wants to get as much revenue as possible is not suspicious to me. People keep saying that they are funded with taxpayer money. This may be true but my understanding is that there is no specific annual appropriation. If the trust money comes up short, it can go to Congress but there is no guarantee that the money will be appropriated. I don’t see anything wrong with AFRH trying to maximize its revenue so that it doesn’t need to go begging to Congress every year.
    Someone characterized the park currently planned as “small.” 22 acres is almost half the size of Central Park. And it does not sound like it will be inaccessible to Petworth residents; it just sounds like they may have to hike a little bit to get to it. Just like Petworth residents currently have to hike a bit to get to Rock Creek Park.
    Don’t get me wrong. I would love to see a park closer to Park View/Petworth. But I’d settle for one in the SE corner of that parcel.

  • Dirty

    22 acres is almost half the size of Central Park? What Central Park are you talking about?

  • lol

    Yeah… central park is about 850 acres.

  • Marcus Aurelius

    My bad. I fumbled the hectares to acres conversion. I blame the Stone Cutters for keeping the metric system down.

    How’s this – 22 acres is about 20 football fields. That’s still a pretty big park.

  • johnpaul

    A thought on this Veterans Day:

    Ode to a Soldier

    Here at the Soldier’s Home,
    You will find the remnants of our Wars.
    Many military men and women
    Bearing the wounds, pain and scars.

    Each bearing tragic memories
    Of full scale combat and more,
    Defending our rights for Freedom,
    Is what they were fighting for.

    Now in their twilight years
    Let us give them some peace at last,
    Just a bit of compensation
    For their Suffering in the past.

    Known today, as the
    Armed Forces Retirement Home
    It is safe refuge they have earned,
    Giving of their lives for us all.

    No one has the right to infringe
    On this Hallowed Ground,
    It is their home forever
    To this we are duty bound.

    So rest easy Soldier, Sailor,
    Airman and Marine,
    You are now safely Home,
    Thank you for your service,
    Rest easy, You are Home.

  • lol

    good poem…

    unless of course the directors go ahead as planned and lease the land to condo developers…

    I am still flabbergasted how people wanting to turn this into park land are somehow being vilified


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