Photo by PoPville flickr user AggieMAB
A number of readers have written in about tonight’s ANC4 meeting (Petworth Library Community Room 6:30pm-9pm) that will discuss Raymond Park/Playground (915 Spring Rd, NW) and one shares a letter written to the mayor:
“Dear Mayor Gray,
I am writing to implore you to help our community here in Petworth.
This past Sunday, Jamar Freeman was murdered in the Raymond Recreation Center. The identity of the murderer and the reason for the murder are both unknown at this time. What is not unknown to the community, however, is that the poor state of the Raymond Rec’s security and the “anything goes” attitude that comes along with it.
On any given night of the week there are drug dealers present surrounding Raymond Rec. Some nights these dealers stand on corners, some nights they sit in the playground that is meant for children to play in. My wife and I have gone outside in the morning to discover men sleeping on the playground equipment, as well as using the playground as a toilet. As residents, we have watched as police dutifully respond to calls at Raymond Rec, but are unable to apprehend the subjects escaping through the numerable uncontrolled entry points – both official and those made with wirecutters through the chain link fence. Dealers flee the police from surrounding blocks through Raymond Rec, knowing that the police cars cannot follow them.
This criminal element has a safe haven at Raymond Rec, as it is full of dark corners and numerous entry points for people to get in and out. As a result of this safe haven, crime in the surrounding blocks has risen steadily for the past 6 years (as shown in the attached graph). A change needs to happen in the neighborhood to improve the safety and security of the park, which will have undeniable positive effects for the surrounding community.
Despite all its problems, the community is still able to make use of the Rec Center. The daily basketball games continue, despite players having to avoid the prominent pothole inside the three-point line. The weekly flag football and soccer games continue, despite the field’s bare spots, and despite the broken water fountains. Parents still take their children on the playground, avoiding the sections where it has been used as a toilet.
This community and its citizens deserve better.
The Raymond Recreation center has an immediate need for new security lighting, lockable gates, and a fence that cannot be cut or scaled. Renovations would enable opportunities for organized programs, which will make the park a destination for recreation, instead of a hang-out or escape route for the criminal element. These renovations are already planned as part of your budget, but have not been executed. The Rec Center has gone without these much needed renovations while the neighborhood and the city have developed around it. Impressive recreations centers have shown up in Shaw, Columbia Heights, Deanwood – while the citizens of our neighborhood wait.
The Raymond Rec renovations have been part of the District’s planed capital expenditures since 2009. The 2011-2016 Capital Improvement Plan called for Raymond Rec ‘s construction to begin in October 2010. We have seen drawings and plans, with the project start time always “just around the corner.” We have watched the start date move from October 2010… to January 2010… to June 2011… to September 2011…until now, when we have no determined date for these much needed improvements.
At a September 27th meeting with Councilmember Bowser and the Office of Public Education Facilities Modernization, the community was presented with new ideas which would change the Rec Center as planed into new city offices, and push the project start time even further into the indeterminate future. This new plan will not help the community fix problems that are getting worse daily, and we reject it as a community.
The renovations for Raymond Recreation Center are already paid for, and were allocated in the 2011 budget. We need this work to begin NOW. DPR and OPEFM have a plan that has been vetted by the community and is achievable within the budget. I urge you to press the heads of these agencies to move forward with execution immediately. Bringing the Raymond Recreation Center modernization project to fruition will bring the community the safety, security, and recreation opportunities it deserves.
I speak for our entire neighborhood when I tell you that we cannot bear another night of drug dealing, another day of unusable facilities, or another young life taken.
Friends of Raymond Recreation”