On Tuesday residents and supporters packed the hearing room as testimony began in the case against Mayor Gray and the Union Station Redevelopment Corporation, filed by Ivy City residents who are seeking to block the Mayor’s proposal to create a charter bus parking lot in the heart of the community, attracting hundreds of diesel-spewing buses into the community on a daily basis.
This Video, provided by Luke Kuhn of DC’s Independent Media Center shows Ivy City residents and their attorney Johnny Barnes at a rally in front of the courthouse before the hearing.
The case was originally filed in July by three residents and Vaughn Bennett, Vice Chair of ANC 5B, based on the city’s failure to comply with DC law and give proper notice to the Advisory Neighborhood Commission, consider their input with “great weight,” and conduct a study of the environmental impact of the proposed bus lot.
Tiny, historic Ivy City was settled in 1872 by African Americans who built a close-knit village, founding their civic association in 1911. The Alexander Crummell School was also built in 1911 and sits in the center of the community as though a town hall. The site named for Reverend Doctor Alexander Crummell received historic designation in 2002.
As the hearing commenced, Judge Macaluso allowed testimony to be heard from several witnesses including some of the plaintiffs. Commissioner Vaughn Bennett testified to never having received proper notice of the bus lot. The commission passed a resolution against the bus lot by a 8-0 margin when it came to their attention in July, after construction had begun on the site. Crummell alumni Jeannette Carter described how she returned to Ivy City after years away from the community in part because she heard about the plans to revitalize the community, and wanted to participate in its rebirth. Third generation resident and plaintiff Andria Swanson, current President of the Ivy City Civic Association, also noted that her grandmother stayed in her home around the corner from Crummell due to promises that the community would improve, and hopes that property values would increase as a result.
Several DC planning documents note that the community has long been burdened by truck traffic and resulting pollution and urge improvements in this area. DC’s Comprehensive Plan states that Crummell School should be restored for workforce development and other community uses, as long advocated by residents. And the Neighborhood Stabilization Plan released late last year includes a “Greening Report” which details the need to green the Crummell lot, and includes digital images of what the school could look like when restored and greened.
These were the promises that led over 58 new homeowners to purchase affordable homes developed by nonprofits Manna Inc, Mi Casa and DC Habitat for Humanity, subsidized by the city and marketed as part of the “revitalization” plan. New homeowner Peta-Gay Lewis who moved in December of 2011 testified that her daughter’s asthma has worsened since moving into the community, and ER visits have become frequent. She is concerned that her daughter’s health will further deteriorate and her property values will drop when the bus lot opens across the street.
Prior to the hearing residents and supporters rallied in front of the courthouse, joined by a number of ANC Commissioners who are supporting the Ivy City residents’ suit. Ward 5 Councilman Kenyan McDuffie released a statement, saying “I fully support and stand behind the residents of Ivy City in their efforts to stop the Gray Administration and the Union Station Redevelopment Corporation from converting the historic Crummell School into a charter bus parking lot.” Today, the Councilman held a hearing on legislation calling for the formation of a Ward 5 Industrial Land Task Force to address concerns like those of the Ivy City community which is plagued with over 10 acres of parking for school buses, snow plows, salt trucks and other city vehicles, as well as other facilities – like a medical marijuana cultivation center and liquor distillery – that the community opposed.
At the hearing Councilman Tommy Wells responded to Andria Swanson’s testimony, acknowledging it was “no doubt a crushing blow” to the community when the Mayor moved to locate the buses at Crummell, a cherished historic site, and that he would “stand with Councilman McDuffie in saying we need to take a look at this, because we do.” Councilwoman Mary Cheh made a similar statement after Andria Swanson testified on November 6th at a hearing on the issue of Air Quality in the District.
But no elected official has been as vocal as the Washington Post, which has written twice on this issue. On August 12th a full page article led the Environment Section (link below) and today columnist Courtland Milloy called attention to the community’s environmental justice fight (link below).
The Ivy City lawsuit represents DC’s most important current Environmental Justice fight and a victory in the case will have implications for residents citywide who have been ignored and cast aside by the development priorities of the Mayor and entities seeking private profit.
Please help us pack the hearing room again when the case continue next Monday, November 19th at 9:30 AM at the Carl Moultrie Courthouse, 500 Indiana Ave, NW, in room 415.
Website of Attorney Johnny Barnes
CITY PLANNING DOCUMENTS
Results of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program planning, 2011
Digital reimaging of Crummell School
Nov 14: Black-on-black injustice in Ivy City
Nov 14: Video of Rally before Court Hearing
August 12: Ivy City, tired of being a D.C. ‘dumping ground,’ takes on Gray over bus depot
JOB TRAINING NOT PARKING AT CRUMMELL SCHOOL, CAMPAIGN MATERIALS:
Video for Job Training NOT Bus Parking at Crummell School: http://tinyurl.com/IVYCITYvideo
Online Petition for Job Training Not Bus Parking at Crummell: http://tinyurl.com/ivycitypetition
HISTORIC INFORMATION ABOUT IVY CITY/CRUMMELL SCHOOL:
15-minute documentary, Crummell School History: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AU4GBfozny0&list=UUoFgQR86MULIWqKs4wHnFjQ&index=14&feature=plcp
Ivy City History Project Booklet: http://www.wdchumanities.org/docs/hrc/ivycitybooklet.pdf