Providence Park Attack!

News travels fast near Providence Park. Chris Cole heard it from his neighbor Carlson Klapthor, who heard it himself from an Architect of the Capitol (AoC) employee doing maintenance two weekends ago. She told Klapthor the AoC might use a third of Providence Park as a staging area for work on tunnels connecting the Capitol Power Plant to the rest of the Capitol campus.

Within two days everyone who lives near Providence Park was up in arms. Neighbors exchanged worried e-mails, and at least one letter circulated with phone numbers for relevant members of Congress. (Many of the people who live by the park are Hill staffers themselves.) Ward 6 D.C. Council member Tommy Wells’s chief of staff told Hillscape that Wells would send a no-no letter to the AoC.

“As soon as word of this possibility began to course its way around e-mail and dog-walker networks, all hell broke loose,” local Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner David Garrison said. The park — an empty city block with grass and a couple trees on it — sees constant use from residents, residents’ dogs, soccer teams, Little League teams, softball teams and elementary schools on two adjacent blocks. Nobody’s giving this thing up without a fight.

But before an angry mob could grab torches and pitchforks, AoC spokeswoman Eva Malecki told a neighbor that whatever he’d heard about AoC plans for the park was bogus. She wrote to Hillscape, “There are no specific plans for the site at this time.” 

Not that the AoC can’t do whatever it wants with it.

“‘Providence Park’ is part of the Capitol Grounds which is under the jurisdiction of the Architect of the Capitol,” Malecki wrote. If the AoC wants to stash some heavy equipment there, it can — and that is indeed a possibility, according to Malecki: “This area is part of the long-term planning for the Capitol complex and various uses of the site are under consideration, including its use to support major construction projects, such as utility tunnel repairs.”

The utility tunnels have an asbestos problem, which is a serious threat to workers. One of the tunnels reportedly goes directly under 2nd Street between D and E streets SE — right along the west side of the park.

Providence Park used to be the location of Providence Hospital, until the facility was demolished and Congress bought the site in 1970 to turn it into a dormitory for the congressional page program. That plan never got off the ground, and by the late 1970s Congress mandated the site be kept nice and green. Neighbors have made it their own ever since, pooh-poohing page plans and fending off an early 1990s scheme by the University of California to turn the park into a full-fledged campus.

The AoC says it will meet with neighbors at some point to discuss its plans.

“We will take them up on their offer,” Garrison said.


Bar supports troops

There’s a bar on Capitol Hill that Supports the Troops, but not with some dumb sticker. Much better: The Tune Inn on Pennsylvania Avenue SE is doing its part in wartime by partnering with the Armed Forces Foundation (AFF) to provide wounded veterans with greasy food, cold beer and a trip to the ballpark. 

On June 2 Javier Sanchez, himself a veteran and former AFF director of government relations, along with bartender Matt Manley, arranged for a stretch Hummer to pick up about a dozen vets from Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Northeast and the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., and bring them to the Tune Inn for complimentary beer and burgers. After dinner, the gang cruised over to RFK Stadium to watch the Washington Nationals get clobbered by the San Diego Padres. But the loss didn’t matter.

“The comments we got from the soldiers was that it was one of the best evenings that they’ve had so far,” Sanchez said.
“They’re used to seeing the congressmen, the generals who come by the hospital to say hello. It’s better when an average guy buys them a beer.”

The AFF and the Tune Inn are collecting tickets and funding from corporations, government employees, friends and regulars. The plan is to make the ballgame outing a monthly occurrence, AFF president and executive director Patricia Driscoll said.

“I think it’s great that the community continues to come out for these wounded troops,” she said. She noted that changes in lobbying laws have provided great seats for the troops, as corporations suddenly needed to dump off their season tickets.

Javier says the Tune Inn is ideal because it’s a “local D.C. bar” with a “down-home” feel — a place without the hoopla of politics or media, where injured vets can focus on beer, burgers and baseball.
 


Noise against noise activism

The District’s anti-noise activists have hit on a novel way to promote their cause: by making a hell of a lot of noise. This they do annually in parts of the city unaccustomed to the amplified racket from street preachers near anti-noise headquarters, The New H Street NE.

“This is totally legal,” bellowed David Klavitter into a megaphone in Adams Morgan last Saturday. For two years Klavitter has blogged about his “Quest for Quiet,” documenting confrontations with the preachers on H Street and following the prospects of legislation to make them quiet down. He and his allies set up with speakers and microphones at 18th and Belmont streets NW to give Adams Morgan a two-hour dose of H Street noise pollution.

The D.C. Guerrilla Poetry Insurgency, a group that gathers twice a week in Dupont Circle, set up speakers for its own noisy counter-protest against free-speech-hating by the Klavitter crew. The counter-protest made the whole scene approximately twice as irritating. 

Passers-by in Adams Morgan covered their ears, shouted at the noisemakers and flipped the bird. One man put an amplifier in his apartment window above the Pharmacy Bar across the street for a little counter-counter-protest: “Okay, you’ve made your point — goddamn!”

Then he plugged in his guitar and squealed out “The Star-Spangled Banner.”


The kids are all right

On June 1, a concerned neighbor posted a note on a Capitol Hill listserv wondering about a bunch of cop cars on the 600 block of 14th Street NE — hadn’t some children been KIDNAPPED?

First District Cmdr. Diane Groomes dispelled the rumor in a response, explaining that “four juveniles were playing in the block when a pickup drove up with four teen males who jumped out with waterguns and sprayed the kids and then one suspect pulled
the pants down of the young kids in the block.”

Nobody was hurt, but the perpetrators escaped.

Summer has just begun, and that means it’s time to fret about kids and crime. D.C. Council member Tommy Wells introduced a bill to bump the curfew for 16-year-olds up an hour earlier. This year, though, the emergency policy was shot down.

And Groomes told Hillscape that the weekend of the 16th, the first after school ended, didn’t bring the wave of crime many have come to expect.

“I’m excited to say because this weekend was the test,” Groomes said. “I had one of the best weekends, statistically-wise, that I’ve had in a long time.”

There was one robbery in Southwest, and the police arrested a suspect immediately, and some kids shot fireworks into a car by the Potomac Avenue Metro station in Southeast, but nobody was hurt.



CORRECTION

A photo of the Israelite School of Universal Practical Knowledge accompanying last week’s column was mistakenly attributed to Arthur Delaney. The photo was taken by David Klavitter and used with his permission.