The Fight For Ivy City

Cross-Posted From Street Sense
Written by Eric Falquero

Ivy CityThree children race through the intersection of Providence and Capitol streets NE. Two kids ride scooters and one is on a bike. An oncoming taxi stops short.

Danger seen, crisis averted.

But traffic pollution poses a more insidious threat to neighborhood health, local activists say. And it is proving harder to stop than a hurrying cab.

In  the low-income community where many residents already suffer from respiratory ailments, the Ivy City Civic Association (ICCA) is fighting to keep the city from opening a  new tour bus parking lot. The neighborhood is hemmed in by busy New York Ave.NE as well as  train yards, warehouses and city vehicle lots. And advocates worry the increased fumes from the charter buses will only make health problems worse.

“We can’t just let you come in and kill us,” says ICCA president Alicia Swanson-Canty, 40, who has spent her whole life in Ivy City. She worries that current pollution levels in the neighborhood are taking a particularly heavy toll on elders, including her mother.

On December 10, 2012, Superior Court Judge Judith Macaluso buoyed the advocates in their fight against city hall.  She ruled that city officials violated the law when they moved forward with plans for the bus depot  without getting the required input from the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) or doing a mandated environmental review.

But now, the Ivy City activists are bracing for the next round of their battle.

City Mayor Vincent Gray is appealing the ruling and his day in court is is scheduled for Sept. 17. The office of the mayor would offer no comment for this story, except to say the city is pursuing the requirements specified in the injunction.

Advocates hope the December ruling will stand. And they hope for more.  Their ultimate goal is seeing the former Alexander Crummell School, where the bus lot is proposed, transformed into a community or recreation center that could offer resources that are now in short supply such as a safe play area for kids and adult education classes.

Historic Photo of Crummell School - courtesy of Empower DC

“If they’re trying to make this a community, we need a rec,” said Ivy City resident Juice Williams, age 39. “We don’t need buses, we nee

d something productive: job training, GED classes…”

His fellow resident Nate Wales and David Hayes agreed that a community center would be a haven for children like the ones they had just watched cross the street in front of the taxi.dents Nat

“They’re not doing anything but chasing each other in the same circles,” Wales says of the kids.

Hayes could not help but compare the lack of services in Ivy City to the resources in other neighborhoods. “Brentwood has a work program, Rosedale has a rec, Edgewood has a rec…”

Wales added that the presence of a juvenile detention center does not send a hopeful message to young people. “There’s nothing to do, but they’re ready for you when you get destructive.”

Swanson-Canty said she believes that workforce development programs could help both longtime residents and men staying at the New York Avenue Shelter, which is also located in the neighborhood. She pointed out that the city has been promising a community center to Ivy City for years.

“Just give us what you said you would,” said Swanson-Canty. Most recently the city’s 2006 comprehensive economic development plan called for a community center and additional green space in Ivy City.

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2 comments to The Fight For Ivy City

  • Tori

    It is crazy that when something is brought to people’s attention, people start to say they have all these health problems… Funny! I hope DR. notes was included before this article was published

  • Yes indeed, there is plenty of evidence from doctors and other health specialists that Ivy City residents suffer disproportionately from respiratory illnesses. If you attend today’s hearing, you’ll hear all about it, along with proof that their ailments are related to emissions from the many trucks that pass through the neighborhood and that adding tour buses would only add to the problem. Thanks for your comment.