29 November 2012

WMATA changing more than just the "rock throwing" bus routes

Most DC news outlets have covered the story about WMATA cutting bus service to some streets east of the Anacostia River. The rationale for those cuts are incidences of rocks being thrown at buses. This news coverage has failed to point out that many other lines in the city are being adjusted or removed altogether. Two of those changes greatly affect my neighborhood, Trinidad. Very little time remains to let WMATA know what you think about these changes.

The biggest change is the proposed elimination of the D3 line. The D3 currently provides a direct connection from Ivy City, through Trinidad, to downtown, Dupont Circle, and Georgetown. It provides a convenient way to access Metrorail's Green and Yellow lines, by disembarking at 7th and E Streets NW.

Metro's rationale for eliminating the D3 is "duplication with other routes" and "low productivity." I cannot find anything quantifying "productivity" on WMATA's website, so I don't know how it is defined. Perhaps one thing causing "low productivity" would be a low farebox recovery rate on the line. I (and others) often note that the fareboxes on the buses are not working - it means a free ride, but that clearly hurts the system financially in the long run. Additionally, I'd guess those free rides aren't counted in the overall ridership totals for the line.

Other bus routes certainly ply the same streets, but nothing provides a direct connection from our neighborhood to the other side of the central business district in the morning. The D3 buses are usually crowded by the time I board at Montello Avenue and Neal Street. WMATA does not clearly state whether they will increase bus frequency on the other lines that run on Montello Avenue (D4 and D8) to make up for the lost capacity.

Speaking of the D4, it will be changing as well.

The D4 route, which currently runs between Ivy City and Franklin Square, will more than double in length when it's extended north from Ivy City to the Fort Totten Metro Station. It will be taking over the easternmost part of the E2, E3, and E4 lines, which currently run from from Friendship Heights through Fort Totten to Ivy City.

Longer routes can lead to more opportunities for buses to fall off schedule, as well as "bunching," which is when many buses on one route arrive at a stop at once. This can lead to very long waits between buses instead of the expected even spacing.

Metro originally announced a hearing for the changes happening in Northeast DC for October 30, but the impact of Hurricane Sandy meant that it was rescheduled to November 26, the Monday that just passed.

A heading says "Routes seeing improvements in this bus service change proposal" on the page with the public hearing schedule, but the list does not mention the elimination of the D3. Certainly, one could argue that the elimination of a route is not an improvement, so WMATA was under no obligation to list the removal of the route on that list. I would argue the total elimination of a route is something that should be prominently noted, regardless of whether this is an "improvement" or not.

An additional problem is that I have seen no signs at the bus stops along the route alerting people to these changes. Certainly people who ride the D3 would be interested to know their bus is going away, and wouldn't the best place to reach those people be on the bus itself?

There's still time to let WMATA know what you think (though not much time). Written testimony can be emailed or faxed to WMATA, but you must do so by Monday, November 5 December 3. From WMATA's website:
Written statements and exhibits may be sent to the Office of the Secretary, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, 600 Fifth Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20001, or e-mailed to writtentestimony@wmata.com. Statements also may be faxed to 202-962-1133. Please reference the hearing number. [Ed. Note: The hearing in NE DC was number 579, and the Docket number for all the proposed changes is B12-03.]
Submissions must be received by 5 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 5 [Ed. Note: From what I understand, the date for submissions was changed due to the hurricane as well, though this press release does not indicate that.]. Please note that any personal information such as name, e-mail address, address, or telephone number you provide in the statement may be releasable to the public under the WMATA Public Access to Records Policy, available at http://www.wmata.com/about_metro/public_rr.cfm.
Let WMATA know what you think about the changes to the D3, D4, or any other route that they plan to change in the new year.

26 November 2012

'Urban Pioneers'

Can a relatively innocuous real estate sign be tone deaf? Maybe.

These signs, advertising the Flats at Atlas apartments, have been up for months in tree boxes in the blocks surrounding the building at 1600 Maryland Avenue NE.

A minute looking at the pictures of the faces on their website quickly tells you the people who these apartments are being marketed toward - twentysomething, single, well-to-do folks looking to live where there are a lot of bars and restaurants nearby.

While the building is located in the Carver Langston neighborhood, across the street from Trinidad, the advertising team chooses to claim the building is in the "H Street NE" neighborhood (and the name of the development obviously evokes the Atlas District).

Can you blame them? Their target demographic has certainly heard of H Street as a place where they can drink, eat, and have fun. The other two neighborhood names, if anyone has any clue about them, don't necessarily engender the same feelings. The fact, though, is that the building is on the periphery of the H Street commercial district, not right in the heart of it all, as they might like you to believe.

What bugs me most is the first two words at the top of the sign.

"Urban Pioneers."

The term "pioneer" is defined as a person who is among those who first enter or settle a region, thus opening it for occupation and development by others.

From a simple reading, one could infer that this apartment building has been built in an empty place, and that's true, from a very narrow point of view. The lot was vacant for years before the Flats went up, though imagine if the very solid Sears and Roebuck building (seen here) was still there.

From a broader point-of-view, the area is nowhere near empty. The "pioneers" of this area arrived in the first half of the last century. Most of the buildings on the surrounding blocks were built sometime in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. Some of those "pioneers" still live in the area, while many have been replaced by generations of new arrivals, coming in changing waves of class, color, and creed.

The "Urban Pioneers" branding that the Flats at Atlas has chosen essentially says "Hey, nothing was here before you. This place has no history, there was nothing of importance before YOU moved in." That's myopic, shallow, and simplistic.

What's not too late, though, is for those who live in the new apartments and their neighbors on the surrounding blocks to get to know each other, despite the marketing team's willful ignorance of the latter.

21 November 2012

D.C. United's appreciative open letter to fans

We went to my first-ever D.C. United match on Saturday (it was Jaime's second). While the end result was ultimately unsatisfying (a draw that led to the team being bounced from the playoffs), we had a good time, and hope to attend more matches in the future.

The team placed an open letter on their website, thanking politicians, fans, businesses, employees, and local organizations for their support this year. I just wanted to share the print version of it from today's Express to make sure those who didn't pick up the paper saw it. It shows that print still holds the ability to present things in an elegant and beautiful format that the Internet sometimes cannot match.

click to enlarge

Vamos United!

20 November 2012

New homes at the corner of Florida and West Virginia Avenues

This summer, DCRA's Office of the Zoning Administrator issued a preliminary ruling on a plan for new houses to be built on the piece of land at the southwest corner of Florida and West Virginia Avenues in Near Northeast. Today, the plot includes a pine tree and weeds that tend to get very tall before being occasionally trimmed.

That hasn't always been the case. Three rowhouses existed here until late in the last decade. Here's an image from DCRA's website, dated August 22, 2004, after the homes had fallen into disrepair.

You can see where they were located on the block in the aerial image below.

Here's how the 3 lots on the block are currently platted.

The developer plans to combine the 2 easternmost lots. This is how the proposed buildings would be laid out on the resulting lots. I'm not a fan of the fact that these buildings won't directly address Florida Avenue. Hopefully the small, oddly-shaped front yards will not be an afterthought in this design.

It's worth noting that the current zoning for these lots calls for at least one parking space per building. DDOT has already let the developer know that they will not allow any curb cuts on the perimeter of this block, so the developer will have to go before the Board of Zoning Adjustment to get a variance. Only if they receive that variance will DCRA issue building permits.

The variance should be a no-brainer. There is plenty of room for street parking on the surrounding streets, and the lots are a short walk to many bus lines one block south where West Virginia Avenue meets 8th and K Streets.

Here are the (very preliminary) sketches representing the front, rear, and sides of the proposed buildings.

I always thought this would be an interesting candidate for a park, either for people, dogs, or both, but more housing opportunities in a city that sorely needs them is a good thing as well.

Finally, a big thank you to Mark Eckenwiler for pointing me towards these documents!

19 November 2012

Carry-out menu from...the Department of Public Works?

Is your supercan's lid, wheels, or lift bar (the metal bar halfway down the front of the can) broken? Get in touch with DPW via the 311.dc.gov website ASAP, and you'll get it repaired for free!

The note DPW left at our back gate.
Recently, a crack on the lid of our supercan had been growing, and the stress of being rapidly flipped open and closed by DPW workers every week finally caused it to break on the Election Day pickup. The next day, I asked DPW via their twitter feed who I needed to contact to get the lid repaired.

A quick response reminded me that it's an option on the 311 website. I went there on November 8 and put in a request for "Supercan - Repair," unsure how long it would take to get a new lid.

Sometime on November 16, a DPW contractor put a new lid on our supercan and left the card to the right (which says the recycling cart was repaired, but that's not true) stuffed into our rear gate.

I didn't notice the card until the next morning. From the bedroom window, it looked like a carry-out menu. "Carry-outs are leaving their menus at the front AND back doors of houses now, huh?" I thought. I was pleasantly surprised to find that wasn't the case!

I left a positive comment for DPW on the grade.dc.gov website.

The service was relatively prompt and totally painless. If your supercan (or recycling cart!) needs repair, don't delay. Take advantage of this simple service your tax dollars provide.

16 November 2012

"Pretty soon you won't recognize the place" - gone

Do you remember the "New Town" project that was pushed by John Ray and Sang Oh Development 6 years ago in the Florida Avenue Market area? It was touted by Vincent Orange during his failed mayoral run that year, but never really got off the ground (thank goodness).

The last reminder of the project was a sign at the northwest corner of 4th Street and Florida Avenue NE. The vacant U.S. Beef building had been located at that corner, but it was demolished in 2006 and a sign quickly went up promising a large residential building. "Pretty soon you won't recognize the place. Promise," it declared.

Pretty soon you won't recognize the place by Inked78
The sign became something of a joke, as its promise stood for 6 years, faded from years of promising something that never came to be.

Until now?

This new sign went up yesterday, and Tony Goodman, the neighborhood commissioner who represents the area across the street, linked to this showing the latest proposed building for this space. From the sign, it appears that EDENS has teamed up with Sang Oh Development for a project related to the new Union Market.

Is it possible that we really might not recognize the place this time? Until shovel hits dirt, I'll remain skeptical. But the area is certainly on local developers' radar in a way it wasn't 6 years ago.

15 November 2012

Friends of the Woodridge Library Book Sale this Saturday

The Friends of the Woodridge Library is having its fall used book sale this Saturday, November 17, from 9:30 am until 4:00 pm, at the library (located at the corner of 18th Street and Rhode Island Avenue NE).

Proceeds will benefit the nonprofit organization, which in turn supports the branch library's programming.

This is possibly the last FWL book sale before the current branch closes and an interim building is set up to make way for the new Woodridge Library. You can keep up with the details of the transition, and provide your feedback, on the project's site. A heads-up, the next community meeting is coming up on December 3 January 7, 2013, 6:00 pm, at the library.

Hope you'll come out, find a deal or three on some books, and support a great cause - see you there!

14 November 2012

A new neighborhood just appeared in DC - Bloomingdale!

Check out this full-page advertisement from the current issue of the Washington City Paper:

It turns out Bloomingdale is a new neighborhood! Not sure exactly when it came into being, but for the sake of argument, let's assume it's happened in the last year or two.

I'm looking forward to checking this new neighborhood out! Wonder what was there before the hot new Bloomingdale neighborhood appeared? It would be neat if someone could dig up that history. Maybe it was a corn field back in the 1980s? It must have been platted some time in the 1990s, with construction beginning at the dawn of the current millennium. Great to hear that DC continues to grow!


Now, in all honesty, this is just another example of people in one part of the city "discovering" a part of town that simply wasn't on their radar. DC's neighborhoods, from North Portal Estates to Bellevue, from the Palisades to Capitol View, have all been there for years, but some just don't have the recognition of a Dupont Circle or a Capitol Hill. Eventually, the "gentrification wave" washes over them, though, and suddenly a neighborhood becomes a "hot, new" place. Get ready for it, Deanwood. You don't really exist right now, but someday, you'll become hip and cool, and someone will declare you "new."

13 November 2012

First step for the Post Metro section - report local election results

This weekend, Patrick B. Pexton, the Washington Post's ombudsman, wrote an article lamenting his paper's coverage of local news [The Post forgets to be local]. In it, he states that the complaint he hears most is that "The paper is so thin" and that the Metro section could use some more heft.
Map of Ward 5 from ancdc.us

I recommend the following as a start: actually report the election results for the representatives most closely tied to the people in the city that the paper calls its home: the Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners.

To the best of my knowledge, these results have not been published by a single print medium in DC (to this point). If you want them, you need to go to the Board of Election's results page. This is fantastic if you have internet access, but much of the city's population does not, and gets its news from the daily paper and evening television news, just like we all did two decades ago. Elderly neighbors and people who don't obsessively check local blogs need a place to find this information that's accessible to them.

This wouldn't need to be a flashy story, and it certainly wouldn't need a novel infographic. Just a simple map for each ward, like the one above, along with a list of each candidate and the results.

Simple. Informative. Necessary (information is the lifeblood of a functioning democracy). And the best part: NO ONE ELSE HAS DONE IT. The Post can take the lead here.

To be certain, it would be a week late, so perhaps it doesn't qualify as news anymore, but it would be a service to residents whom the Washington Post and its ombudsman yearn to serve. The new commissioners don't take office until after the first of the year, so this would still give residents time to familiarize themselves with their new representatives.

What do you say, Mr. Pexton? See what you can do about getting this feature in the paper. It might add two pages to a thin Metro section.

07 November 2012

Art Enables Saturday Workshop

We're always happy to spread the word about events at Art Enables, one of our favorite places in Woodridge, DC, on Rhode Island Avenue NE. This weekend, check our their latest art workshop.

From their release:

Please join Art Enables for the first in a series of Second Saturday workshops

Saturday, November 10th from 1 to 3 pm* A wired workshop

Come make artwork from wire and create lines that take on a life of their own as 2D objects expand to the 3rd dimension. We’ll provide basic materials, instruction, and guidance as long as you bring the inspiration.

Second Saturday workshops are designed to increase community engagement and provide everyone a chance to participate in a variety of the creative processes and bring more art into their lives. Come tour the studio and make some art!

*Free - reservations are required so we have enough materials.
Please RSVP to events@art-enables.org

19 September 2012

This Saturday - the first FoRIA Fall Fest

Different commercial districts around the city have had fall festivals for years, taking advantage of what is usually good weather to invite people from around the city and the region to see the great things available in those neighborhoods. Adams Morgan Day has been the granddaddy of these festivals for some time now, but thanks to increased buzz (and a lot more space to work with), the H Street Festival is quickly becoming one of the bigger ones in the city.

Thankfully, another festival is being added to the mix. A stretch of Rhode Island Avenue NE that runs through Woodridge will be hosing the first Friends of Rhode Island Avenue (FoRIA) Fall Fest this Saturday, September 22, from noon to 4 p.m.

"Downtown" Woodridge is an underutilized, under-appreciated, and under-capitalized diamond-in-the-rough. It has the bones that are required for a great commercial strip - tree-lined wide sidewalks, nearly continuous commercial frontage, lots of people within walking distance, and the proposed return of a streetcar line will give it the premium transportation that it needs to shine.

If you haven't been to Woodridge lately, head over there on Saturday and check it out, and consider joining FoRIA (it's free!) and lending a hand to their great momentum.

31 July 2012

Northern charm and Southern efficiency?

Here's a quick story about how, even though city services in DC are so much better than in the bad old days, there still is much to be desired...

I found a license plate from a car in our front yard one morning. I sent a tweet to the DMV, asking what I should do with it. They told me to mail it to the Southwest Service Center. Unfortunately, I didn't have an envelope big enough to do so at the time, so I left the plate next to the mail pile in our entryway, planning to take it to the DMV personally when I got a chance.

That chance came yesterday. After biking to Dupont Circle for a haircut and Foggy Bottom for a appointment with my doctor, I headed down to Southwest to give the plate to the DMV in hopes they could reunite it with its rightful owner.

Since I don't have a car anymore, I've stopped paying attention to when DMV offices are actually open. I didn't realize all locations are closed on Mondays. When I arrived at 95 M Street SW, a few women were talking with the security guard who had come outside to give them directions about when and where else they could conduct their business.

Thinking I might have a chance at simply leaving the license plate with the guard, I told her my story and asked if she could give it to someone when they came in the next day. She quickly responded, "I don't want to be responsible for that. You take it to the police next door."

Disappointed that this was going to be more than a simple transaction on my part, I trudged over to the police station I had walked past moments earlier. After opening the door, I realized I had to walk through a metal detector. I thought about the small saw blade that I often carry with me (handy for taking down illegal signs on lampposts and doing a little illicit tree pruning where kids have torn branches from our young street trees), and then I realized that I had a metal license plate in my hand, so there was no way I could avoid setting off some alarm.

Boldly striding through the arch, I was greeted with a loud beep that caught the attention of a woman behind a desk about 40 feet away. She mumbled something in my direction, but I couldn't hear her over the rumble of an air-conditioner. After letting her know twice that couldn't hear her, she finally got out of her seat and came over to the front desk. I briefly explained the situation, and told her that the DMV guard recommended I bring the plate to the police.

After looking at me quizzically, she turned around to grab a piece of paper and asked for my name, phone number, address, and date and time I found the plate. I couldn't remember the date exactly, but let her know it was some time ago. She asked why I didn't return the plate immediately, and I let her know that I was busy and it hadn't been a priority. "This was my first chance to go to the DMV, and that's why I'm here now," I replied.

The woman (who did not appear to be an officer, as she was not in uniform), took the plate and walked past her desk to a cubicle located behind hers. A uniformed officer emerged, and after a brief discussion, they both came back up to the front counter.

The officer told me to take the plate back over to the DMV. I reminded him that they're closed on Mondays, and he replied that I should go back tomorrow. When I told him that I did not have time to do so later, he shrugged, handed the license plate back to me, and walked away.

At that point, I strongly considered just pitching it in the garbage can and walking out of the building. Thinking better (I really didn't want to provoke the kind of reaction that would get me jailed for some stupid reason), I put the plate back in my bag, laughed, and walked out of the building.

Anyone want a DC license plate? Maybe you could try to find its owner. I gave it a shot, I failed, and I'm ready for someone else to take a turn.

30 July 2012

Casey Trees staff cycling over 500 miles for tree research

Photo by Christopher Horn of Casey Trees
Casey Trees is a local non-profit centered around planting trees and spreading awareness about how to take care of them here in the District. I've been volunteering with them since just after I moved into the city (it was either fall of 2004 or summer of 2005, I can't remember - when I started volunteering, not when I moved here!), and they've consistently been one of the most important voices for making this a better city, in my opinion.

Casey Trees staff members will be helping raise money again this year for the Tree Research and Education Endowment Fund (TREE Fund) through a 585 mile bike tour this coming August. The 2012 “Tour des Trees” will begin near Beaverton, Oregon, and cyclists will have to deal with elevation changes of over 4,300 ft as well as several days of 100+ mile riding.

In 2011, Casey Trees actually hosted the event, which began in Virginia Beach, VA and stopped at their headquarters before ending at American University’s campus.

In its 21 year history, the Tour has raised over $5 million to advance arboriculture education and research, which is directly used for, amongst other things, studying urban forestry. The TREE Fund’s work has a direct impact on such hot-button tree topics in D.C. as public safety and electric service reliability, disease and pest control, and economic concerns including real estate values, air pollution reduction, and the urban heat island effect.

Casey Trees is sending two staff members, Sara Turner, the Urban Forestry Manager, and Neil Irvin, an Urban Forestry Crew Member, who will attempt to raise $7,000 to contribute to the TREE Fund research while biking, planting trees, and generating conversation about the importance of D.C.’s and the nation’s tree canopy. Consider them stewards of the District’s green future. To help them reach their individual fundraising goals, donate here:

Sara Turner, Casey Trees Urban Forestry Manager

Neil Irvin, Casey Trees Urban Forestry Crew Member

They’ll be documenting each and every turn on the Tour via the Casey Trees blog, Tree Speak, and on Facebook and Twitter.

Be sure to follow their progress!

06 June 2012

The (potential) coming electoral mess at the JAWB

The John A. Wilson Building, by WallyG
UPDATE: Thanks to input from a few friends, there are some additions made below in italics.


The ongoing turmoil at the Wilson Building doesn't appear to be ending anytime soon. Voters in the District can likely expect more special elections in the coming year as the fallout from the investigations into the campaigns and other doings of Council Chairman Kwame Brown and Mayor Vince Gray continue to be revealed.

Speculation is rampant about how things would play out should one or both be removed from their current positions. I wanted to put together a really rough outline of what some think could happen soon. I'm certain this isn't 100% accurate, so please let me know in the comments if you can provide a correction.
  • In the simplest scenario, Kwame Brown steps down or is removed from office.
  • Mary Cheh becomes the temporary chairperson, due to her current position as Chair Pro Tempore. She calls a meeting to select an interim chairperson, who, by law, must come from the list of at-large members of the council. The chairperson is not allowed to have any other employment, and the story is that Michael Brown and David Catania would not want to resign from their non-council jobs, leaving Phil Mendelson and Vince Orange to compete for the chair's seat. (Since the interim chairperson would not actually be an elected chairperson, it's not clear whether they would have to give up outside employment).
  • The at-large seat vacated by one of these two would remain temporarily vacant until a special election is held in conjunction with the general election this November.
  • That special election would be to fill the chairperson's seat on a more permanent basis.
    • If Mendelson were to run in and win that election, BOEE would hold another special election in the new year to fill his vacant at-large seat.
    • If Orange were to run in that election, he would have to leave the race he's currently in for the at-large seat. You can't run for two council seats at the same time. (While you can't run for two seats in the same election, a special election held at the same time as the general election could be considered a different election, so it's possible, but unlikely, that someone could run in two races at once.) The DC Democratic State Committee would get to select someone to take his line as the Democrat on the ballot for the at-large seat (somewhat similar to the way they selected Sekou Biddle to take Kwame Brown's at-large seat temporarily when he became council chairman).
If Vince Gray follows Kwame Brown in stepping down or being removed from office, the situation on the council becomes even more muddled.
  • The interim chairperson would become the interim mayor.
  • Another interim chairperson would have to be selected to run the council. Let's assume that the council selects Mendelson as the interim chairperson after Kwame Brown leaves office. That would make him the interim mayor, and would leave Vince Orange as the selection for interim council chairperson.
  • BOEE would call for fall special elections for a new mayor and a new chairperson.
  • The above caveats about the seats currently held by Mendelson and Orange would continue to apply (temporarily vacant, would need to be filled in a special election should one of them run for and win a higher office).
  • It's safe to assume that current officeholders like Evans, Bowser, Wells, and others may run for one or both of these seats. Should Evans, Bowser, or others currently up for re-election choose to run for either of these seats, the Democratic committee for their respective wards would name someone to take their line on the ballot, as they couldn't run for two offices at once. Wells would not have to worry about that, since he's not currently up for re-election.
The potential for a confusing ongoing election season is about to increase greatly. I never would have guessed that all of this mess was possible just two short years ago.

11 May 2012

Open letter to Ward 5 residents - Vote Kenyan McDuffie May 15

 Photo by BurgersSociety on Twitter

I'm going to keep this brief. The Ward 5 special election is on Tuesday. Early voting has started, and according to Mike DeBonis, the precincts that are voting in the largest numbers are mostly in the northern part of Ward 5, which many consider to be Frank Wilds country.

Most think that the election is going to be a close one between Wilds, Delano Hunter, and Kenyan McDuffie. If it's not clear from the picture above, we are die-hard McDuffie supporters.

It's highly unlikely that anyone will emerge from the 12-candidate field with a majority of the votes. A few hundred votes could swing one candidate or another to victory, though. Turning out supporters is key, and we have been phone banking, going door-to-door, and will be working on election day at the polls for our preferred candidate.

The southern parts of the ward that border Ward 6 (Truxton Circle, Bloomingdale, Eckington, Ivy City, Trinidad, Arboretum, and Carver Langston) need to turn out and vote for someone who will have a good, strong working relationship with that ward and its councilmember, Tommy Wells. Cross-jurisdictional relationships are important, and Tommy knows that he and Kenyan will work together well on the council.

We strongly encourage you to vote, either today (Friday) or Saturday at the Turkey Thicket Recreation Center on Michigan Avenue in Brookland, or on Tuesday at your regular polling place throughout the ward. Please, get the neighbors who live on either side of you to vote as well. This is too important of an election to have our city's usual anemic 15% or less turnout.

09 May 2012

Neighborhood clean-up and art show in Woodridge this Saturday

One of our favorite places in Ward 5 is Art Enables, an art studio and gallery on Rhode Island Avenue in Woodridge. We've written about it before, and want to draw your attention to an event they're hosting.

As you can see in the flyer below, the opening reception for their spring show will be this Saturday, May 12, from 2 to 4 p.m. at 2204 Rhode Island Avenue NE.

If you're up for spending even more time in Woodridge, check out the transformation beginning on that stretch of Rhode Island Avenue by meeting up earlier (at 10 a.m.) at the corner of 20th Street NE and Rhode Island Avenue NE for the Friends of Rhode Island Avenue's monthly clean-up. It's a easy way to do some good and meet some fun people!

07 May 2012

Call these lawbreakers, tell them to stop harming DC's trees

There are people who live in DC and businesses that operate here who don't care to follow DC law. Some of these individuals have a special disrespect for the trees in our neighborhoods. It's time we tell them, en masse, that we are sick and tired of this disrepect and lawlessness.

Below are a series of signs that I came across this morning on my ride into work. I'm passing this information along to the Department of Public Works as well, in hopes that they will throw the books at these creeps and fine them to the fullest extent possible under the law. Unfortunately, that might just be a couple hundred dollars.

In the meantime, I strongly encourage anyone reading this to call the numbers on these signs and give them a piece of your mind. Maybe, if we can shame these people enough (or at least clog up their voicemail boxes), we can get them to stop dumping their garbage on our city.

DC is a beautiful place. Let's keep it that way.

Juicy J is performing at Ibiza nightclub in NoMa this Friday. There's an opportunity to tell four different groups of people that they need to respect city law and not nail signs to our street trees.
  • Juicy J's twitter handle is @therealjuicyj. Send him a tweet and tell him the promoter he's hired is a hack.
  • His sign was produced by a company called Gig Signs. Their phone number is (609) 420-4242. Call them and tell them their signs don't belong nailed to our city's trees
  • The club where the show is happening is Ibiza. Call them at (888) 424-9232 and tell them you don't appreciate their shows being promoted in a way that harms trees.
  • There's a number on the signs for "Social Architects," which appears to be the promoter. Call them at (202) 905-3131, and give them a piece of your mind about nailing signs to trees.
Here's another one of Juicy J's signs. These were nailed to trees on the 800 block of K Street NE.

DC House Max appears to be one of those shady companies that buys houses from people in economic distress, then does a shoddy job and flips the house, leaving the new owner with a mess that'll start falling apart after 8 months. They also like to screw their signs to trees. I didn't have a Phillips head screwdriver with me this morning to remove this sign, but it's still located on the 1100 block of K Street NE.

Here's a close-up of that screw and washer. Call DC House Max at (202) 288-3200 and tell them that you're sick and tired of their ilk and what they do to our trees.

Finally, this sign was one of two that wasn't nailed to a tree, but was tied to lampposts on Florida Avenue NE at the entrance to Gallaudet University. It's not legal to put advertising signs on posts without registering them with the city and affixing a date to the signs noting when they were put up. The latter wasn't done, and I'd bet a princely sum that the former wasn't done either. I took them down and threw them out. But go ahead and call (202) 800-2728 and leave a message. Fill up their inbox so they can't actually do business.

08 March 2012

Pretty signage at Florida Avenue's 24-hour Tire Service Center

There is a beautiful, classically-designed neon sign in front of Mac's Tire Service at 423 Florida Avenue NE. It's been there for a couple months, but I thought it deserved a little special attention.

Last summer, the Washington Post ran a great story on Mac's Tire Service, which touts itself as the only 24-hour tire service center in the metropolitan region. The story included a video and photo gallery with Dennis Parker, a mechanic at the shop.

Consider this a reminder that there are people worth knowing, respecting, and appreciating in the gritty parts of DC that the world doesn't pay attention to every day.

07 March 2012

Traffic bollards at 2nd Street and Florida Avenue NE need help

When DDOT completed the reconstruction of the intersection of New York Avenue, Florida Avenue, 1st Street, O Street, and Eckington Place NE (known by some as "Dave Thomas Circle"), they included plastic bollards in the part of the Florida Avenue roadway immediately east of the intersection to control traffic coming out of the somewhat blind corner with 2nd Street NE. Unfortunately, those bollards need maintenance and replacement, and DDOT needs to step up to keep this intersection safe.

On August 22, 2011, I sent a 311 request (number 11-00259888) for bollard replacement. Many had been run over or were missing, and I frequently observed dangerous and illegal turns. The request wasn't resolved for over 3 months. On December 2, 2011, I received the short reply "NO WORK NEEDS TO BE PERFORMED. PER VICTOR N."

As of this morning, it appears that a vehicle ran over many of the remaining bollards. Debris is scattered all over the roadway and adjoining sidewalk. Bollards are either missing, snapped in half, or have been pushed off their moorings and are certain to fall under the wheels of passing vehicles sooner or later. Someone has taken the time to collect a few bollards and place them behind the guardrail that keep traffic away from the nearby rail overpass.

This intersection will likely be reconfigured when the Washington Gateway development on the north side of the block is completed, but it's doubtful that will happen in this calendar year. In the meantime, I hope DDOT will go out and make the simple repairs necessary to keep this intersection safe for those driving, cycling, and walking through it. They've certainly shown to be responsive about simple things, like updating road paint, that make a big difference, before.

28 February 2012

Two Rivers PCS produces rubbish for the real two rivers

Biking home from the New York Avenue metro station yesterday evening, I noticed that every fence and gate on M Street NE was adorned with a lime-green flyer in a plastic bag. Many of them were already blowing down the sidewalk and into the gutter.

I stopped to pick one up and found it was a notice from Two Rivers Public Charter School to encourage people to apply to enroll their children in the school.

While I'm all for a local school reaching out to the neighborhood, Two Rivers could have been much less ham-fisted about it. They placed these flyers on the gates or doors of EVERY house I saw in Near Northeast and Trinidad on the way home.

Half these flyers (and the plastic bags they're in) are going to end up washing into the sewer. The flyers will disintegrate, but there's a good chance the plastic bags will end up in the Anacostia River, which I'm pretty sure is one of those "Two Rivers" that the school is named after.

Couldn't the school have done a more sophisticated job of outreach? Putting a flyer encouraging people to apply for a local school doesn't do much good if the people in that house are in their 80s, retired, and definitely without school-aged children. I'd have expected better from a school with a pretty stellar reputation.

19 February 2012

Come to Art Enables' 10th birthday party, February 25

Artwork by Nonja Tiller.

Art Enables, a fantastic art studio and gallery on Rhode Island Avenue in Woodridge, DC, will be throwing a 10th anniversary party next Saturday, February 25. Please consider stopping by the studio at 2204 Rhode Island Avenue NE (easily reachable by bus if you're using public transportation) between 2 and 4 p.m.

From their release:

Art Enables is a 501(c)3 nonprofit gallery and supported employment program for adult artists with developmental disabilities from around the Washington Metropolitan area. Art Enables’ mission is to offer participants in the program the opportunity, the environment, the materials, and the marketing support they need to succeed as professional artists.

For more information on the anniversary party or on Art Enables, call (202) 554-9455.

We're proud to have a fantastic painting of the John A. Wilson Building by John Simpson that we purchased at Art Enables hanging in the entryway of our house. They're a fantastic organization full of wonderful people, and they richly deserve your support.

07 February 2012

Near Northeast burrito joint opens tomorrow

A new restaurant is opening at 635 Florida Avenue NE. Chinito's Burritos will have a soft opening from 10 am to 5 pm tomorrow (Wednesday, February 8). Our friend Lori stopped by earlier this afternoon and verified the opening, and said the owner is still figuring out regular hours. Here are a couple pictures of the interior I took on the way home tonight:

Here's hoping the restaurant is successful!

For a little history, here's a snapshot of the building from DCRA:

As you can see, the sign said "Southern Fried Chicken, Fish, Subs & Pizza" was coming soon in the summer of 2004.

By the summer of 2009, when we moved to Trinidad, the restaurant was closed and the owners were looking for a new tenant:

It's also worth noting that the shell next door has been fixed up and turned back into a proper house.

19 January 2012

UPDATED: Attempted assault with a Circulator bus

UPDATE: A representative from WMATA called back to let me know that the driver had been identified and served with a two-day suspension (without pay). He will also have to undergo remedial training when he returns to active duty.

(The original post continues below.)

Photo by Elvert Barnes on Flickr.
The "Assault of Bicyclist Prevention Act of 2011" is still bottled up in the D.C. Council's Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary, which is chaired by Councilmember Phil Mendelson. Though the bill was introduced last September by nine sponsors (a supermajority of the council), it hasn't been moved to the committee of the whole in any form. Here's one example of the assaults that happen every day on our city's streets, necessitating action on the part of the D.C. Council to protect cyclists from harm.


Wednesday night, I was biking home from the New York Avenue station, heading eastbound on Florida Avenue NE. When I got to West Virginia Avenue, I turned left (north) and headed into Trinidad. I took note of the fact that there were a couple cars and a Circulator bus heading north on West Virginia Avenue, waiting at the light. I always check traffic there, because I know that any vehicles will catch up to me on West Virginia Avenue within a few seconds after I make my turn.

I took the lane on West Virginia, as I always do, to avoid being doored by parked cars, and to avoid being squeezed into those cars by traffic overtaking me. By the time we reached Morse Street NE, one block up the road, both of the cars had been able to pass me, but oncoming (southbound) traffic kept the bus from being able to do the same. I knew he was still behind me, but wasn't sure quite how far back. Suddenly, the driver accelerated so that the bus was just a couple feet behind my rear wheel. He began honking. I turned back to look, and he was waving his arms and shouting. The driver was not in total control of the bus, or his emotions for that matter.

I realize I am outspoken about the right of cyclists to use the road just like anyone else, and I realize that there are a lot of cyclists in the city that break the law. Drivers of all stripes complain about this and say that they'll respect cyclists as soon as cyclists start following the rules.

Last night's incident was a perfect example of a cyclist following the law (taking the lane was my right—it's even a signed bicycle route—I had front and rear lights on the bike, and I was wearing a helmet and a reflective strip on my pants). This bus driver decided he would use his multi-ton vehicle to intimidate and harass me. No physical harm occurred, ultimately, but his reckless actions could have led to my death had he accidentally accelerated a little more. Putting the two of us in that position is nothing but negligent. I don't know what kind of reprimand can be given to the driver, but it should be easy to identify him.

Actions such as this are absolutely intolerable, and until people start realizing that there are consequences to childish behavior like that, I fear that this kind of thing will continue to happen until - oops - someone is maimed or killed.

Patience and respect are a two-way street. I gave, but did not receive it last night. That bus driver needs to be retrained on how to operate on DC's streets, or he should be removed from them permanently.


I sent a version of the above in a letter to DDOT, and ultimately received a phone call from WMATA, as they manage the Circulator program. The WMATA representative was professional, kind, and understanding, and she promised me the bus driver would be identified and spoken with. She acknowledged that his actions not only could have hurt me, but any injury to a cyclist could have caused him to lose his job. I'm very grateful for the professional follow-up from DDOT and WMATA.

West Virginia Avenue NE is slated to get dedicated bicycle lanes this year on the entire stretch from Florida Avenue NE to Mount Olivet Road NE. Hopefully the additional markings will make it even more clear that bicyclists have just as much right to use the road as motorized traffic.