Dear Ward 5 ANC Commissioners, Councilman McDuffie, and Mayor Bowser,
I listened intently to the words of ANC 5E Commissioner Bertha Holiday during Tuesday\’s ANC 5E meeting where she encouraged the audience to look closely at the root of the friction that erupted during the meeting over a dog park slotted for the Edgewood Park recreation innovation project. She drew from her mental health background to identify possible racial, economic, and cultural differences that were veiled in some of the comments, sighs, rolled eyes, and frustration that emerged during this meeting. She urged the audience to find a way to find common ground. However, when the audience asked her if she would be the person to help this neighborhood come together she replied “I already have too many things on my plate”.
The following night Ward 5 Councilman Kenyan McDuffie calmed a growingly frustrated audience at the Edgewood Park Recreation Center renovation kick off meeting as the Department of Parks and Recreation representative failed to adequately answer questions he should have been prepared to answer. The unease and concern from the community was growing until Councilman McDuffie intervened and reminded the audience of his roots in Edgewood and the push he made to get money back in the budget to complete this long needed project.
However, when he emphatically stated that the recreation center was going to be for “all of the people in the community” and not be slanted in favor “newcomers” to the neighborhood, the thin veil of uneasiness showed up again as a sparse applause arose from members in the audience who clearly identified themselves as the “newcomers”.
With all of this rushing towards some predictable end, the questions I’m left contemplating are who’s going to bridge the gap between the residents who’ve waited for generations for change in Ward 5 and the newer residents moving in to the District? Who’s drafting the neighborhood integration plan so that long time Ward 5 residents, who feel it’s only a matter of time before they are displaced or priced out of their communities, feel protected? Who’s going to protect the seniors who serve as cultural landmarks? Or even the physical landmarks that bear so much history?
Great cities and neighborhoods find a way to hold on to these landmarks and incorporate them into the new environment. Ethnicity and diversity means that one culture or economic class shouldn’t minimize or marginalize another. Some areas of the district have only recently recovered from the blight created by the riots of the 60’s and white flight of the 70’s. Amidst the architectural drawings, ground breaking ceremonies, and money flowing into this ward – where is the social plan?
So, dear Commissioners, Councilman, and Honorable Mayor all I ask is that you point us to the neighborhood integration plans you’ve obviously drafted to compliment the economic recovery. Show us that the “rising tide lifts all boats” theory applies to the changes going on. Calm our fears with the policies geared at not only providing affordable housing for long-term Ward 5 residents and seniors, but the programs to help them to be able to afford the rising housing prices in Ward 5.
Tell me that the fate of long time businesses and landmarks in Ward 5 won’t go by the way of “the 6th Street Market”. Although Union Market’s cafes and collection of niche products and market stands are popular and welcomed by many, there’s a hole in the hearts of long-term residents who grew up with the smell of butchers shops, fresh fruit and vegetables, breakfast cooking at the front entrance, and the hat stand that seemed to stretch from one end to the other. Everybody had their favorite butcher or knew which one had the best meat you were looking for depending on the holiday season.
So in conclusion, Commissioner Holiday has a point that shouldn’t be ignored. The undercurrent in Ward 5 is heavy with concern and fear that long term residents will be paved over by the gentrification steamroller. To ignore that fact would be criminal for those of you that we have elected to protect our interests while moving the city and Ward 5 forward. We’re counting on you.
The Editor of the DC Voice
Always Forward ®