Georgetown Current

City Tackles Water St. Safety after Homicide

August 17, 2017

By Grace Bird

Current Staff Writer

Following last month’s fatal shooting under the Whitehurst Freeway, officials are taking steps to improve public safety in the Water Street NW corridor, which include improving lighting and installing security cameras.

While proposed changes often divide Georgetown residents, worries about crime-conducive conditions along the waterfront draw a firm consensus: Something must be done. “It has definitely been an ongoing issue in Georgetown,” Joe Gibbons, chair of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E (Georgetown, Burleith), said in an interview.

In the early hours of July 8, a double shooting in the 3500 block of Water Street killed 19-year-old Kennedy Javier Amaya-Olivares and left another man injured. The homicide took place in the area near the road’s terminus at the Capital Crescent Trail beyond the Key Bridge.

Following the incident, the D.C. Department of Transportation repaired about 100 streetlights around the waterfront and installed two wall-mounted lights. “DDOT night inspectors reported, and residents confirmed the area is now properly illuminated,” agency spokesperson Maura Danehey wrote in an email.

The agency is also considering installing parking meters on the 3500 block of Water Street, which officials hope will dissuade drivers from loitering on the quiet roadway. However, the department does not plan to eliminate parking from this part of Water Street, according to Danehey.

“Although combatting crime does not fall under our jurisdiction, we support other agencies by installing such assets as streetlights, and evaluating parking scenarios,” Danehey wrote.

So far this year, the Metropolitan Police Department’s crime data show 20 incidents on Water Street NW. In addition to the July 8 homicide, these include an April 22 armed robbery, two burglaries, four thefts from parked cars and 13 additional thefts.

Representatives from the U.S. Park Police, the National Park Service, the Georgetown Business Improvement District, the Metropolitan Police Department, the Transportation Department and ANC 2E met recently to discuss “some of the ongoing concerns in the area,” U.S. Park Police Lt. Christopher Cunningham, commander of Rock Creek Station wrote in an email. According to Cunningham, the park police have increased their presence near the waterfront since the shooting.

Meeting attendees, Cunningham wrote, discussed adding lights to Water Street, the Whitehurst Freeway and the remains of the former Aqueduct Bridge, as well as installing security cameras on the freeway or adjacent properties. The Georgetown BID raised the idea of painting over graffiti or commissioning a mural near the aqueduct. National Park Service officials additionally agreed to assess the feasibility of building a fence to restrict access to the old Aqueduct Bridge.

According to BID director Joe Sternlieb, his organization has also begun a study on the feasibility of increasing Water Street’s commercial activity. The team would make recommendations according to the study’s findings by the end of the year, Sternlieb said.

ANC 2E member Lisa Palmer raised a concern about illegal nighttime drag racing competitions on Water Street. From her window, Palmer said, she frequently watches in horror as drivers tear down the wide, secluded dead-end road. 

“It’s not safe to be a driver, it’s not safe to be a pedestrian,” Palmer said. “It’s not safe.”

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Dumbarton Oaks Park Among Grant Recipients

August 10, 2017

By Grace Bird
Current Staff Writer

The National Park Service is celebrating its 100th birthday by awarding centennial challenge grants to six parks across Northwest D.C., the U.S. secretary of the interior announced last month.

This year, Congress gave $20 million to national parks across the U.S., and park partners added another $33 million. “Many of the national parks that Americans treasure today would simply not exist without the strong partnerships and philanthropy that have benefited the national park idea for over a century,” acting National Park Service director Michael Reynolds said in a news release.

Locally, the Northwest locations receiving funds are Chevy Chase Circle, a section of Rock Creek Park near Massachusetts Avenue, Dumbarton Oaks Park, the Lincoln Memorial, the Carter G. Woodson Home and Mount Vernon Triangle.

At Chevy Chase Circle, sometimes called the “gateway to the nation’s capital,” the park’s friends group received $16,368 in government funds and matched that amount with an additional $17,705. The money will be used to restore bench seating for up to 200 people lining the outskirts of the circle, according to the friends group’s president, Ruth Robbins. Many of the benches, installed in 1956, do not have a seat rail and are “skeletal,” she said.

The group raised the money by sending 6,000 letters to neighbors asking for donations. “And people responded,” Robbins said. “We had a 5 percent return rate, which is unheard of.”

Barbara Price conceived the circle project in 1992, and for 14 years she and a group of friends worked to reimagine the dilapidated park. After Price left the area in 2006, restoration efforts waned. Then, in 2014, Robbins resurrected the friends group and secured nonprofit tax status. Since then, the group has been working to restore and maintain the circle.

On April 17, Robbins’ group planted six new willows courtesy of Casey Trees, to complete a complement of 30 trees around the circle. Then, in May, the group held a “pruning party” where more than 40 volunteers helped trim the circle’s newly planted azaleas. Also, two overgrown traffic triangles were recently freshened up by landscaping company Kristina Kent Garden Design.

Efforts to restore Chevy Chase Circle may have lapsed for several years, but Robbins has no plans now to slow down. Members will soon turn their attention to the curb lining the circle, which Robbins said is only a few inches wide, leaving the circle susceptible to damage from car crashes. However, this effort is complicated by the fact that the circle sits along the Maryland-D.C. line, forcing coordination among federal, District and Maryland authorities.

Robbins also has her sights set on restoring the circle’s aging fountain, although such an effort would cost about $500,000.
The Rock Creek Conservancy also won centennial grant funding to restore a woodland area near Rock Creek Parkway, Massachusetts Avenue and Whitehaven Street NW. The group received $17,000 in federal funds, and raised an additional $71,000 in cash and in-kind donations.

With these funds, Rock Creek Conservancy plans to remove at least 17 invasive species, as well as plant several hundred native trees courtesy of Casey Trees.Next on the calendar is a volunteer tree-planting day, with a date to be announced soon, said conservancy spokesperson Katy Cain.

Meanwhile, Georgetown’s Dumbarton Oaks Conservancy received $320,000 from the federal government to alleviate problems caused by stormwater runoff from nearby properties, and the conservancy is currently raising funds to match that amount. The runoff pollutes the park’s waterways and damages roots of trees and shrubs, according to conservancy president Lindsey Milstein.

The first phase of work has been underway since June of last year, with a scientific and engineering consulting firm contracted at a base fee of $130,000.

Potential design solution include building landform structures to slow the flow of water, directing water into new pools fitted with permeable materials, and retaining runoff in ponds and wetlands. The project is scheduled to wrap up by the end of next year.

“The Centennial Challenge grant is the miracle that opens the door to the Conservancy meeting its mission,” Milstein wrote in an email.

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Hyde-Addison Renovation Underway Following Delays

August 3, 2017


Current Correspondent 

Construction of a long-planned addition to Hyde-Addison Elementary School began this summer, a project that will connect the school’s two buildings but displace students to Meyer Elementary for the next two school years.

The project, which has been in the works for over five years, has been delayed numerous times amid concerns over financial resources, historic preservation and the excavation of a large sewer pipe. Last summer it was deferred yet again as administrators sought to identify an acceptable swing space to send students during the construction.

Work began in June and will continue into the summer of 2019. Modernization of Georgetown’s public elementary school kicked off in 2014 with renovation of the historic Hyde building at 3219 O St. NW. Earlier work took place in 2008, when the long-vacant Addison building at 3246 P St. NW was fully modernized and became part of the same school complex under the Hyde-Addison name.

“DCPS believes that all students should have high-quality learning environments,” D.C. Public Schools spokesperson Janae Hinson wrote in an email. “We are confident that the modernization of Hyde-Addison Elementary School will support the academic program at the school and meet the needs of all students, teachers, and families. The new state-of-the-art building will serve 400 students, include additional spaces for academic and ‘specials’ programming, and create a more cohesive campus.”

In the past month, construction contractor MCN has set up fencing and safety precautions. Meanwhile, arborists removed invasive and unhealthy trees and set up protection for a large elm that will remain on-site throughout the project. Last week, excavation work began on a waterline under the property, which will be relocated to accommodate excavation for the addition, according to a presentation at a May meeting of the project’s School Improvement Team.

At the meeting, plans for the new Hyde-Addison playground were also discussed. A survey of parents, teachers and students indicated that playgrounds, run-around space, outdoor gardens and outdoor quiet areas are the most prioritized options. The playground will include a combination of brick paving, geoturf and sport-court. Final discussions and planning will continue into the fall and water. 

The swing site, too, is being prepared for students’ arrival this fall. The decision to send students to Meyer Elementary in Shaw ignited controversy between parents and city leaders last December, but students will begin at Meyer in the fall. 

Commuting to Meyer Elementary, located at 11th and Euclid streets NW, will take 40 minutes for some Georgetown students. Earlier this summer, the school system met twice with parents to discuss transportation logistics. As with similar projects in the District, school buses will pick up students at their “home school” — Hyde-Addison — and take them to Meyer, which was most recently used as swing space during the now-completed renovation of the Duke Ellington School of the Arts. 

This month at Meyer, workers are painting classrooms and installing Smartboards, and they are preparing to remove trailers that aren’t needed for the Hyde-Addison students. Two new playgrounds are being installed, one for ages 2 to 5 and the other for ages 5 to 12.

When Hyde-Addison reopens to students, it will accommodate 400 students and feature new amenities such as a cafeteria-gym space. The old building was designed for 275 students, with enrollment far above that figure.

This article appears in the Aug. 2 issue of The Georgetown Current newspaper.

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