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Thursday, July 19, 2007

In the Meantime: The National Parks Service and the Carter Woodson Site (Part 1 of a Series)

In February, the National Parks Service ("NPS") provided an update on the Carter Woodson Site development. Among other things, the NPS informed us that it might not be until 2016 before the site has been renovated and is open to the public. We were also told that if one ever sees vagrants or any other criminal activity in or around the NPS’s buildings on the 1500 block of 9th (adjacent to several of Shiloh Baptist Church’s vacant properties, which also attract vagrants), one should call the NPS police at 202.619.7300 to report it immediately. As illustrated in the above picture provided to me by neighbor Ray, vagrants often find respite on the steps of the Woodson site, usually drinking alcohol.

I have called the NPS Police on several occasions but can’t say I’ve been pleased with the results. First of all, I often get the feeling that the person on the other end of the line is confused over where the property is and if it’s indeed a NPS property. Second, I feel like my report is treated as trivial. I recognize that I’m not reporting a fire or anything too urgent, but vagrancy causes serious problems for neighbors (I’m constantly cleaning up discarded liquor bottles, trash, excrement (sadly I’m not exaggerating), condoms, and so forth). Third, I have yet to see much of a response from the NPS (one prior report seemingly prompted a visit by NPS maintenance a few days later).

I have emailed the NPS about my calls. I have also emailed the NPS requesting that they seal over the areas below the front stoops and/or the steps leading down into the basements of the buildings. I have observed that these areas serve as storage areas, hiding places, and trash repositories; I believe that sealing over them will make the stoops less of a magnet for vagrants. Time will tell if the NPS is responsive to my request.

Having felt un-heard by the NPS Police in the past, I’ve been slack about calling in reports of vagrancy on their properties recently. But I’m going to be a squeaky wheel now, and plan to call them every time I see someone hanging out on the front porch until I see tangible progress towards resolving the problems associated with their properties pending development of the site. I encourage you to do the same. The Parks Service Police number, again, is 202.619.7300.


Anonymous said...

Have you sought help from Eleanor Holmes Norton's office? She seems ideally suited to be a liaison between the community and a federal agency.

Shaw Rez said...

good call, anon--I have not reached out to Eleanor Holmes Norton's office yet.

Mr. Ray said...

Eleanor is the one who paid off Shiloh and ASALH handsomely. Three times at the key handing-over ceremony and pouring of libations with incantations she mentioned how this act of the Park Service taking over the properties was a reward to Shiloh for staying in the neighborhood against the onslaught of gentrification. Like she's going to listen to anyone when we call. You eatin' dreamburgers, hon.

Charles Walker said...

How about hanging banners along 9th Street, announcing the "Vagrant Meeting Point, Sponsored by the National Park Service". Maybe they could be embarassed into doing something. I've often thought about putting up "advertising" signs up for open-air drug markets to embarass the police into doing something.