September 26, 2010 - 11:39 pm

Civic Association Meets Tuesday at 7pm

Gingerbread on the Cooper House

The LeDroit Park Civic Association will meet on Tuesday, September 28 at 7pm in the basement of the Florida Avenue Baptist Church (623 Florida Avenue NW – enter on U St). All neighbors are welcome and encouraged to attend.

During first week of September, we saw groundbreaking ceremonies for both the park and the Howard Theatre. Construction managers for both projects will present at the Civic Association meeting to detail the construction timeline, address neighborhood questions, and discuss job opportunities for residents.

Also learn about the upcoming LeDroit Park Community Day and the Howard University Homecoming, both set for late October.

Don’t forget to renew your annual membership (or join for the first time) if you haven’t already. Dues are $15 per household ($5 for seniors). You can even pay online!

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September 01, 2010 - 8:25 am

Three Projects Break Ground This Week

We’re back from our half-month vacation and LeDroit Park and Shaw are about to see some construction action starting today.

Wednesday, September 1 – 10:30 am

Just when we thought construction on the park on the site of the old Gage-Eckington School would begin, along came the parks scandal last October. Then in March, Harry Thomas Jr. (D – Ward 5) tried to prevent the mayor from appropriating money to the park project; he then reversed himself after an avalanche of constituent criticism.  The new contract was ready to go until Councilmember Marion Barry (D – Ward 8) put a hold on the contract in late July.  Mr. Barry’s delay procedure just expired and the mayor’s office will host a groundbreaking ceremony today at 10:30 am at Third and Elm Streets.

3:00 pm

Over in Shaw, the two block site currently occupied by Giant and a crumbling old market façade is about to start its journey to become a vibrant mixed-use development.  Join the Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), Mayor Adrian Fenty (D), Council Chairman Vincent Gray (D), Councilmember Jack Evans (D – Ward 2) and Councilmember Kwame Brown (D – at large) for the groundbreaking.

Thursday, September 2 – 10:45 am

After years of planning and promises, construction on the Howard Theatre begins in earnest.  Join the developer, ANC Commissioner Myla Moss, and other notables for the official groundbreaking.

We’re relieved to see these long-promised projects finally moving forward to construction.

July 27, 2010 - 8:52 pm

Park Quid Pro Quo

Back in March, LeDroit Park and Bloomingdale residents mobilized to prevent Councilmember Harry Thomas, Jr. (D – Ward 5) from blocking the transfer of funding to the park project here in LeDroit Park.  Our hard work paid off: Mr. Thomas reversed his resolution in the face of an avalanche of angry calls and emails, a good number coming from his constituents in Bloomingdale.

Now Councilmember Marion Barry (D – Ward 8) has inexplicably placed a hold on the new park contract, possibly delaying construction by at least 45 days.  When reached by the City Paper, Mr. Barry responded,

The Gage-Eckington contract was one of those not authorized by the council, not voted on. The mayor in his shenanigans sent it over the council, and I have the responsibility to protect the taxpayers’ money…There’s no money available, and there’s no authority to do this.

Mr. Barry’s statement contains a half-true and a lie. This current contract is being submitted to the Council for passive approval, which is required of city contracts over $1 million.  If the Council does not act on it within a certain period of time, the contract is approved.  This is common method of review since the Council does not have the time to vote explicitly on every city contract.  So, yes, this contract with Keystone Plus Construction Corporation has not been voted on, but few contracts of this size are.

More distressing is that Mr. Barry is absolutely wrong to state that the money isn’t available and that the mayor doesn’t have the authority to build this park.  On March 2, Mr. Barry and the rest of the Council voted unanimously to approve the mayor’s request to re-appropriate $1.5 million for this park:

Sec. 2. (a) Pursuant to section 47-363 of the District of Columbia Official Code, the Mayor transmitted to the Council on February 19, 2010, a reprogramming request of $1.5 million from the capital budget authority and allotment from the Department of Parks and Recreation and the District Department of Transportation to the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development.

(b) The Council approves the $1.5 million reprogramming request.

Sec. 3. The Secretary to the Council shall transmit a copy of this resolution, upon its adoption, to the Office of the Mayor.

Sec. 4. This resolution shall take effect immediately. (our emphasis)

Facts are stubborn things, Mr. Barry.

Mr. Barry’s new-found scrutiny (obstruction, really) of city projects is especially ironic considering he doled out d0-nothing city contracts to his girlfriend and when questioned on the conflict of interest, responded to the Post,

“You all think it is inappropriate to hire a girlfriend. I don’t think it is. In fact, there is no law against it.” When asked whether he would hire another woman he becomes romantically involved with, Barry said, “Unless the law changes, why not?”

The Council’s fair-weather watchdog is likely angling for a quid pro quo from the rest of the Council before he withdraws his resolution.  Perhaps he’s holding out for the Council to cut him a deal he can’t get by any other means than logrolling.

Or he may simply want attention, since his unanimous Council censure and ejection from committee positions has spared the city from much of his legislative influence.

But even if Mr. Barry’s stubbornly refuses to withdraw his disapproval, his huffing and puffing will be for naught since he likely doesn’t have the votes to defeat the contract.

Several civic groups in LeDroit Park and Bloomingdale are turning up the pressure on Mr. Barry and the Council.  He may not have realized what he has provoked.

July 23, 2010 - 1:30 pm

Barry Blocking the Park

Yesterday Councilmember Marion Barry (D – Ward 8) issued a disapproval motion to block the contract for the new park here in LeDroit Park.  Mr. Barry couldn’t even bother to issue an explanation for meddling in a Ward One park and Councilmember Jim Graham is duly upset.  Contracts over $1 million must be submitted to the Council and such contracts are approved if the Council takes no action within a certain number of days.  Mr. Barry’s procedural move will delay the project by at least 45 days until the Council reconvenes in September and can vote on the motion.

Mr. Barry also issued another mysterious disapproval resolution yesterday to block DDOT’s consolidation of its offices into one building near Nats Stadium.  Mr. Barry was stripped of his chairmanship in March after it was revealed last July that he was issuing do-nothing city contracts to his girlfriend.  Our sources tell us that since then he has taken to generously sprinkling disapproval measures for projects throughout the District in a desperate move to show that he still matters.

The park can still move forward without the extra delay if Mr. Barry is convinced— likely with an old-school lobbying effort— to withdraw his motion.  It’s a pity, though, that important government projects are subject to the whims of childish councilmembers.  It should not take yet another lobbying effort to get this park built.

In a city that decries Congressional meddling in local affairs, it’s truly ironic that a desperately need Ward One project is put on hold by a councilmember we didn’t even elect.

April 14, 2010 - 10:19 am

Park Design Meeting Tonight

The city is in the process of finalizing the design for the new park, but there are still opportunities for public input.

Come out tonight at 6:30 to see what the latest proposal has to offer in terms of pavement materials, benches, pavilions, and playground equipment.

April 14th at 6:30 pm
St. George’s Church
Second and U Streets NW

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March 02, 2010 - 5:48 pm

Narrowly Missing the Mud

Thanks to a wave of citizen pressure on the council, LeDroit Park narrowly avoided yet another delay in park construction.

Last night we learned that Councilmember Harry Thomas, Jr. (D – Ward 5), would offer a bill this morning to prevent the mayor’s office from re-appropriating $1.5 million to the park project here in LeDroit Park.  His stated reason for throwing a wrench in the process was that his bill was simply a “procedural matter to ensure that the funding source is constant with the Deputy Mayor[‘s] testimony that the funds will not be taken from other projects and that the funds are properly identified.”

As though a phone call within the Wilson Building wouldn’t have answered that question.  Threatening to further delay a much-needed construction project that the council and mayor had already promised may not be the most prudent way to stick it to the mayor’s office; Mr. Thomas woke the sleeping dragon.

Deluged with emails between residents, civic association leaders, Jim Graham (D – Ward 1), Kwame Brown (D – at large), and Mr. Thomas, himself, the council passed a revised version of Mr. Thomas’s bill, this time explicitly approving the re-appropriation.  Now there’s a u-turn!

Our thanks to all the residents who contacted the council to voice their disapproval.  Mr. Thomas admitted receiving an avalanche of 230 emails this morning on the matter.

And who said citizen democracy doesn’t work?

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March 02, 2010 - 12:05 am

Urgent: The Thomas U-Turn

After last year’s contracting controversy simmered down, Councilmember Harry Thomas, Jr. (D – Ward 5), assured residents that he would not block the park project in LeDroit Park.  He wrote in an email:

I would like to confirm that I am in support of moving forward with this project and supportive of the steps and work that the LeDroit Park community and many members from the Bloomingdale neighborhood have taken to support the Ledroit Park Project and will commit to ensuring that I will continue to support a contract process that moves this project forward and ensures its completion. (our emphasis)

It seems a councilmember is entitled to change his mind.

Mr. Thomas will introduce a bill tomorrow in the Committee on Libraries, Parks & Recreation, a committee he chairs, to prevent the mayor’s office from allotting $1.5 million for the park.

We’re not sure why Mr. Thomas has changed his mind, but residents are encouraged to call him or email him to ask why and to express the importance of the park.  If the site remains a mud pit in November, voters in Bloomingdale (Ward 5) may remember that on their way to the polls.

Harry Thomas, Jr. (D – Ward 5)
Committee chair (202) 724-8028
David A. Catania (I – at large) (202) 724-7772
Kwame R. Brown (D – at large) (202) 724-8174
Phil Mendelson (D – at large) (202) 724-8064
Yvette Alexander (D – Ward 7) (202) 724-8068
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February 23, 2010 - 7:51 am

The Restoration

Good news on the park front.  Mr. Jose Sousa from the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) announced at the civic association meeting last night that Councilmember Jim Graham (D – Ward 1) insisted that DMPED restore the $200,000 in cuts to the park construction budget for LeDroit Park.

As we reported last month, the deputy mayor’s office had reduced the budget for the park from $1.7 million to $1.5 million as the result of citywide belt-tightening.  The remaining $200,000 will be restored legislatively to be paid in the coming fiscal year, which begins on October 1, 2010.  Though the park is still set to open in September, Mr. Sousa said that the remaining $200,000 could be spent right away in October to close up loose ends on the project.

In a month or so the design team will host a meeting to discuss additional design details for the park.  We’ll keep you informed.

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February 22, 2010 - 10:20 pm

Civic Association Meets Tues, Feb 23

300 Block of T Street

The LeDroit Park Civic Association meets tomorrow night, Tuesday, February 23, at 7:00 pm in the basement of the Florida Avenue Baptist Church.  (Enter through the back at U and Bohrer Streets)

This month’s agenda:

  • Introduction to MPD Third District Commander Jacob Kishter
  • Presentation on the Howard University Campus Plan
  • Community survey
  • Zoning variance request for Howard University Hospital
  • Update on the forthcoming park—Jose Sousa, Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development
  • Civic Association Volunteer Opportunities

As always, all are welcome to attend.

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January 27, 2010 - 5:42 pm

See You In September

At the Civic Association meeting last night, a representative from the mayor’s office presented news on the park contract.

Jacqui Glover notified the assembled residents that the budget for the park has been reduced from $1.7 million to $1.5 million. The city would adjust the design accordingly by eliminating the water feature, removing a picnic shelter, and by reducing the number of benches and light fixtures. Other than that, the design is supposed to remain the same.

The design modifications will be finalized by the beginning of April, after which the mayor’s office will solicit bids, and— this is new!— submit the winning contract to the City Council for review as required by law.

Though Ms. Glover is confident that the park will open in September, some in the audience were skeptical.  Nonetheless, our fingers are crossed.

Read our previous posts on the park as the contracting saga unfolded.