30 June 2011

Rhode Island Reds is closing - want to buy it?

Photo by Chris Suspect on Flickr.

I spoke with Chris Brophy, the owner of Rhode Island Reds, an aweome cafe/restaurant/grocery in Hyattsville, and asked him to address this blog comment at the Rhode Island Avenue NE Insider, which said he's closing up shop today.

Unfortunately, he confirmed that it is true. There will be a "wake" tonight.

This is terrible news, as we've really enjoyed stopping in for a meal when biking along the Anacostia Tributary Trails. It's location on Route 1 at the southern edge of Hyattsville made it easy to access from DC, by both car and bicycle. The food is good and the atmosphere is relaxed.

Perhaps Rhode Island Reds won't stay closed for long, though. Chris also confirmed that everything is for sale at the starting price of $15,000. He said "this is probably the cheapest way into the food business in PG County if you know anybody."

Does anyone want to buy a restaurant operation in Hyattsville for cheap? I have to believe that there will be a lot more traffic in the area very soon, with even more restaurants, a grocery store, and homes opening up at Arts District Hyattsville in the coming months. The rent is cheap!

DC turns blind eye to developer's potential sign infractions

Since Douglas Development acquired the Uline Arena, the company has added three large signs to the side of the building, strategically placed to catch the eyeballs of those on passing Metro, MARC, and Amtrak trains.

A look at DC's signage rules suggests these advertisements may not be legal. But they also may be profitable, and Douglas Development owes the city quite a bit in property taxes.

Is the city ignoring the offense for its own gain?

In 2009, years of effort to remove three billboards at the corner of New Jersey Avenue and P Street NW came to an end when the billboards were cut down with a welding torch. The event marked the conclusion of a long campaign by the residents of Shaw to remove what they saw as blight from a neighborhood street corner.

One of the lasting results of that fight was that it made DC residents aware of the list of "special signs" permitted by the District. The "Special Signs Inventory," maintained by DCRA, lists 32 authorized large-scale advertisements that aren't technically billboards, according to DC regulations, located on the sides of buildings.

The Uline Arena signs are not on that list. There has been a Douglas Development sign on the side of the building for as long as I can remember, surely to entice interested parties to inquire about available space in the building. Last year, when Carmine's opened in the Penn Quarter neighborhood, a large advertisement for the Italian restaurant appeared on the side of the arena, as well. A sign advertising FroZenYo turned up within the last couple weeks.

That's 3 large "special signs" located on the building. Is this legal? I contacted Douglas Development to ask them about the regulatory process required to place these signs, but did not receive a call back. If they reply, I'll be sure to post an update.

The signs aren't on the city's official list, so they certainly appear to flout the rules. However, as Michael Neibauer noted two weeks ago, Douglas Development carries a sizable property tax debt to the city. Perhaps DC doesn't mind looking the other way if this helps bring Douglas Development income that can be used to settle the tab.

Cross-posted at Greater Greater Washington.

20 June 2011

Here's why we can't have nice things, DC

Keeping a large city like DC clean is the responsibility of everyone who lives here, visits here, and works here. Unfortunately, there will always be misanthropes among us who just don't care if they toss a bag of fast food detritus out their car window. Sometimes you see the result of this carelessness, and you think, "Boy, if only I could have caught that jerk in the act!" Well, I did, and here's what happened...

I was standing on the sidewalk in the shade of a tree on the 1700 block of Pennsylvania Avenue NW, having just finished talking to my brother on the phone, when a couple walking their dog approached from the east. It's a sight you see a million times a day in the city, and it hardly registered at first. I did notice that the woman walking the dog was moving towards one of the trees, and I thought, "That's a well-manicured tree box, would be a shame if the dog messes it up." Bright pink flowers shared the space with a young oak tree.

The dog defecated in the tree box. Again, something you see every day. The strange part was that the couple continued their conversation and began to walk away without doing anything about the mess the dog had left behind. Incensed that anyone could do anything so careless, I spoke up and said to the woman, "We're you planning to do anything about that?"

The couple stopped, glanced at me incredulously, then at each other. I spoke again, saying, "That's your responsibility. You can't just leave that mess there."

The woman nervously laughed and said, "Oh, I forgot to bring any bags with me. Do you have one?"

I couldn't believe where this was going. We were standing in front of a cafe, and I recommended that they go inside and see if they could get a carry-out bag to remove the dog waste. That recommendation was met with blank stares. I continued to press the point, but they really didn't want to hear any more of it. The gentleman had nothing to say, and the woman gave a forced smirk and they proceeded to walk away.

At this point, I was angry and not sure what I could do. Scream out, "Hey, those people didn't pick up their dog's shit!"? That would have drawn the attention of perhaps nine other people within earshot, and probably nothing else. I did still have my phone in my hand, so I thought, "I'm going to take a picture of these fools."

I followed behind them and grabbed this shot as a test to make sure the camera was working:

We got to the corner of 18th and Pennsylvania, and I stepped around them and pointed the phone straight at them and snapped the shot at the top of this post. They pretended to ignore me, then kissed and walked in separate directions—he continued west on Pennsylvania Avenue, she went north up 18th Street.

I don't know where they live, or even if they are DC residents. The badge hanging from the gentleman's belt leads me to believe he works somewhere nearby, but I didn't see it clearly and my photograph isn't sharp enough to ascertain that information. The woman had an accent that I couldn't nail down. Was it French? Eastern European? Clearly, I'm no linguist, but I could tell that English wasn't her first language, and I also am certain that there was no misunderstanding due to language that would lead them to leave the dog poop in the tree box.

So, what do I want from this? I'd like to see these people positively identified and publicly shamed. Some unfortunate worker from the Golden Triangle BID has probably already cleaned up the mess left by these anti-social jerks, but it would be nice to make sure they know that what they did was noticed, and that the people of this city don't approve of people who think it's okay to crap on DC and try to get away with it.

14 June 2011

Do we really need to describe neighborhoods negatively?

Photo by Thomas Hawk on Flickr.
On Sunday, the Washington Post ran an article about Industry Gallery, a design gallery here in DC. The Post mentioned that the gallery is located in Trinidad, which was a positive point in my mind, because many write-ups of the galleries along Florida Avenue NE at the southern edge of the neighborhood fail to mention the neighborhood, and instead take the somewhat lazy route and say they're located "near H Street."

Interestingly, the author chose to include a descriptor for Trinidad, calling it "the hardscrabble neighborhood in Northeast Washington" (emphasis mine). "Hardscrabble" is defined by Google thusly:

  1. Returning little in exchange for great effort
  2. Characterized by poverty and hardship

Monday, Matt Ashburn (owner of the Capital City Diner and a Trinidad resident) found an advertisement for a new restaurant coming to the H Street NE corridor. An excerpt:

We want to give the idea of a nice restaurant, but we are in a dive neighborhood.

What do they mean by "dive neighborhood?"

Why call Trinidad a place characterized by poverty and hardship?

The history of H Street NE, and why it includes so much disinvestment is important and shouldn't be glossed over. The long shadow of segregation and the 1968 DC riots are extremely important reasons why H Street is what it is today. It's not just a "dive."

Trinidad, by my personal experience, wouldn't qualify as "hardscrabble." It's a traditionally middle-class neighborhood that is being viewed in a new light given its proximity to the activity centers of DC, and is struggling to come to terms with what that will mean as the population of the neighborhood rapidly changes because of economic and social pressures.

We've been deeply involved with the Ivy City and Trinidad Neighborhood Stabilization Initiative, a process that is diligently working through a process to attempt to increase homeownership access while maintaining affordability in the neighborhood. We believe there will be a significant return from this "great effort," and the experience has shown that there is much more than "poverty and hardship" in our neighborhood.

Glib descriptions of these neighborhood are lazy. It's disappointing to see them applied to Trinidad and the H Street corridor.

08 June 2011

Did NBC 4 fairly represent Trinidad?

Editoral note: The following is a guest post from Robert Mann-Thompson, a friend and fellow Trinidad resident.

On June 1, 2011 Washington, DC's Channel 4 (WRC-TV, NBC) aired a report titled "Trinidad: Real Estate Hot Spot?" The report was a "positive" story on Trinidad real estate and gentrification. Unfortunately, I believe the coverage was inaccurate based on its racial depiction of both new- and long-time Trinidad residents.

I am concerned that the young people and "young professionals" in the story are all white, while the African-American people were older. To an outsider, it could appear as if the changing faces of Trinidad are only educated, professional, young white people.

Since television images are powerful, the absence of any non-white "professionals" (an admittedly undefined term) is disturbing. There are many professional people here in Trinidad that are both young and young at heart who hail from a variety ethnic heritages.

It is concerning that the black people were uniformly older compared to the relative youth of the white people. Was this juxtaposition there to present an idea that "Black" represents the past while "White" is the future? I sure hope not, and I hope this was just sloppy journalism, but that's how the story aired, and I felt a response is necessary to ensure this doesn't pass without being noted.

I feel that Channel 4 is usually a fair news outlet, but this time they presented a story that could do damage. We don't need stories like this widening the racial and class divide in the neighborhood. Living here is not about race/ethnic heritage, professional/blue collar, young/young at heart, straight/LGBTIQ, or any other attributes that can be applied in a divisive way.

I would encourage you to contact WRC-TV to express any comments or concerns regarding this story.

WRC-TV NBC Washington
4001 Nebraska Ave. NW
Washington 20016

Telephone: (202) 885-4YOU
Telefax: (202) 885-4104
Email: nbc4dc@nbc.com