Sunday, April 12, 2009

Gentrification Forum

A friend sent me information from a forum on gentrification that he heard discussed on WPFW. From the way he described it it sounds like to may be more of real discussion that the title (Gentrification and the Callous Affluent Class) implies. The forum is really a three part event held on different days. First they will screen the documentary "Brick by Brick" that looks at gentrification in DC. The second event is a panel discussion on gentrification in North America. Part three is a panel discussion on gentrification worldwide.

Here's how the organizers describe it:

The panel discussions will allow the community to thoroughly examine the implications of gentrification, gentrification and racism, the institutionalized gentrification, the economic implication of gentrification, the implication of culture gentrification, the appropriation of African American cultural icons for the benefits of the 'gentrifiers', and the following questions will be addressed:
  • Have they come to live with us or displace us?
  • Who owns the planet?
  • Gentrification: Latest stage of colonial power - or - it's relationship to colonialism?
All events are to be held at Sankofa Video and Books (2714 Georgia Ave NW).


Mike Licht said...

The timing could not be more appropriate, since it is now obvious that the dynamic underlying the displacement of working class families, real estate speculation by the upper middle class, is a fraud-based failure economically as well as ethically.

Anonymous said...

It's WPFW so it's no real discussion, the title says it all. WPFW does ask the hard questions, they just usually take the easy answer first.

Anonymous said...

What crap - a person who decides to buy a home in a working class neighborhood because they can get a bigger or better place than in other parts of the city is a colonialist or oppressor?

This is just a way for people whose entire worldview depends on others perceiving them as victims to attack others who don't have the same pigmentation in a way that would be considered racist if the tables were turned.

Truly pathetic.

Derek said...

Most people see gentrification as something that happens to them or to their neighborhood and forget to realize that is something that happens throughout the country and in other countries as well. I have experienced it in other cities and in other countries I have stayed in.

What I think that hurts is when someone moves in to change things the way they want it to be without fully trying to embrace those who have lived there their whole lives.

Annoyingmous said...

The only thing I want to change about my neighborhood is the likelihood of someone putting a gun to the back of my head, or swinging a milk jug at my head as I bike down the street, or breaking into my back yard and stealing my bike.

Which does that make me: a "colonialist" or an "oppressor"?

ibc said...

What I think that hurts is when someone moves in to change things the way they want it to be without fully trying to embrace those who have lived there their whole lives.

This sort of propaganda-fest certainly doesn't foster the kind of community-building that's going to mitigate the negative aspects of gentrification. So what's the point?

As far as Licht's assertion that gentrification in DC represents "real estate speculation by the upper middle class...a fraud-based failure economically as well as ethically," I think that's laughably wrong on its face.

How many of these new "oppressor" homeowners are underwater or in danger of foreclosure? My guess is almost none. Certainly no one I know.

So your point appears to be that, because the US financial industry gave unsustainable mortgages to folks in exurban sprawl communities in FL and CA, and elsewhere, for homes whose value has largely collapsed, and since large financial companies made ill-considered, highly leveraged bets on those mortgages, that...middle-class homeowners who dared buy in the poor part of town are responsible for the current recession.

What do the scientists say about something being, 'Not right. It's not even wrong'...

The funny thing is, I'm not sure exactly what it is that anti-gentrification forces are looking for? The status quo ante? Maybe we could round up the black middle class now living in PG and Montgomery Counties, put them on boxcars, and repatriate them to the neighborhood.

Seriously, what's the positive plan?

Unknown said...

There's a lot here, most I wont address. The series, as it is presented deals with a very heavy issue. I don't think it is as easy people needing to be victims, or other people being villains. It's a lot more convoluted and dangerous than that.

The problem isn't that outsiders (whites, upper middle class blacks, hispanics, asians, & etc.) moved in - every one has a right to buy a home that they can afford. The problem is that when many new people move in they do not value the community that they are moving into. Sometimes efforts that are taken to improve the neighborhoods are planned and communicated (List serves, Blogs, mass e-mails) with mostly other new neighbors. The effect is the alienation of or the exclusion of old neighbors. While their could be wonderful opportunities for community building, there are instead new people vs old people factions.

A possible path forward for new people would be to move in see things that need to be changed (never arrest the fire to improve things), talk to your neighbors, see if anyone else is working on resolving issues (working on doesn't mean has been successful), meet those working on issues, talk to them build relationships support their effort and weave in your own. In a nutshell, its like anything you have to pay your respects to those that came before and work with them to chart a new way forward.

What is resented is anyone coming into a neighborhood and ignoring those that have lived there, that have survived there, that have done their best (possibly not the best) job at making the neighborhood livable.

It's very hard work. I don't think name calling, helps. Since I am new myself (Only five years in the current neighborhood), I've had to learn the value of what I've written above and it's not fool proof.

These are just my two cents.

I've not found anyone from either the neighborhoods of my youth (Riggs Park/Takoma DC) to my current neighborhood (Trinidad) that is serious about their community, that like crime and blight.

We can work together to make things better. Yes, we can.


Sean Hennessey said...

well said robby

Anonymous said...

I moved to Trinidad because this was all I could afford. Given the choice between a two-bedroom condo in Alexandria overlooking a parking lot far removed from civilization, and a three-bedroom row home that’s a ten minute commute to work, moving here was a no-brainer.

Two years later, and I cannot wait to get the hell out of this place. I’m not a “middle upper class real estate speculator,” I’m just the son of a cab driver from Queens who one-upped his old man and got property in his name.

It has gotten to a point were I would love nothing more than to sit out on my porch like my lovely neighbors do most days its above 60 degrees, except I wouldn’t be sitting out there with ten of my friends smoking blunts and throwing sh*t on my neighbors lawn, I would be out there with a bee bee gun shooting the little knuckleheads in the ass.

The “values” of the people who live here include shooting bullet holes into my home (like one neighbor told me he did back in ’89 as I was giving him a ride from the bus stop), and another neighbor asking me “why you don’t got another controller?” when I gave his sons a video game console with 15 games for free (incidentally, this gentleman’s son actually lives with his grandparents and without fail I wake up the sound of his yelling at his grandparents including this past Saturday’s “I’m gonna kill y’all motherf’ers in your sleep, just watch”).

Maybe I’m not living in the same neighborhood as Robby, but I don’t see anyone making life livable (at least not on my block). All I see is twenty pieces of garbage replacing the ten pieces I pick up every morning from my lawn, dogs sh*tting all over the sidewalk and other people’s grass while their idiot owners talk loudly on their cell phone, and groups of kids harassing my wife every time she sets foot outside the house or car.

I’m not saying no one should have hope, but I’m trading in my sequin Obama hoodie, wool cap, “First Family” tote bag, and all things “Change/Hope/Yes We Can” for Upper Caucasia (all things Wisconsin/Connecticut Avenues NW). Coming from a third world country, growing up in the South Side of Jamaica, Queens, surviving four years of high school in Bedford-Stuyvesant (pre-hipster take over), and THIS is the absolute worst living condition I’ve ever been in. I commend those of you who have come, survived, and will inevitably succeed in finally improving Trinidad, but this is one battle that is less and less enticing to fight with each day.

IMHO, gentrification is a great thing, and if Major’s, Good Danny’s, Danny’s, and the other fine establishment that have “been here” are no longer here, I’m sure the soon-to-be-defunct “been heres” will adapt fine wherever the hell it is they end up.

“There aint no hope for the youth and the truth is there aint no hope for the future.”

Anonymous said...

I'm going with Scenic Artisan on this one. Although I'm not quite ready to leave; I'm tired of the same things. It's disguisting that I have to wake up to find a "Working girl's tools of the trade" in my front yard at least once a week or hear my neighbor screaming at her kids about God knows what at all times of day.

I'm all for gentrification to be prefectly honest. Then maybe I can feel safe taking a run in Trinidad without an escort from my husband.

I know there are law abiding citizens in Trinidad, but it is the bad apples that make it scary for me.

By the way, I saw a police officer on a bike ride down the alley behind my house yesterday - kudos!

Anonymous said...

The underlying premise here, that African Americans who have been here for their whole lives are somehow being forcibly pushed out by a master plan of "gentrification" wherein whites move in and take over the neighborhood is just crazy. Yes, some African Americans have moved away from some neighborhoods in DC because of increases in the cost of living and property taxes, etc. And yes, there has been development, and neighborhoods have changed. This has always happened. Over time, some neighborhoods improve and some decline. As neighborhoods change, people move in and people move out. The ethnic composition of neighborhoods can change drastically, and that has happened in DC many times. Some neighborhoods that are now predominantly African American were once predominantly white many years ago. I do not know where this idea comes from that one has a Constitutional right to live in the neighborhood that one grew up in forever, or that that neighborhood is yours by right. That has never been the case anywhere in U.S. urban settings and it never will be the case. It is historically ignorant to contend otherwise.

Hillman said...

The idea that anyone in DC is displaced by property tax increases is simply not true. DC has always had programs in place to make sure that doesn't happen. If you are elderly or poor you can get any tax increases on your home delayed until the eventual sale of your property.

So you can literally live there until you die without a tax increase forcing you to leave.

It always cracks me up when people claim that taxes from gentrification are forcing them out. It just ain't true.

Tom A. said...

I'm with Hillman on this one. Just this morning I saw an elderly black woman wearing a housecoat coming out of a (potentially) million dollar row house just north of Lincoln Park. I don't think she's a new resident of the block. And yes, I was a bit jealous that she lives in such a potentially amazing house, and she probably has no mortgage! Most homes on her block are valued at over 7 figures.

BUT I do cringe every time someone calls me "a pioneer" for moving into the H Street corridor. I was fairly new to DC, so at first I had no idea what they were taking about. I hope other people are confront this ignorance when they hear it!

Hillman said...

I always like to harken back to my visits to Richmond, to the neighborhood around the fantastic Hollywood Cemetery.

I've never been so scared in a neighborhood. There were thugs with baggy jeans on every corner. Loud thumping rap music everywhere.

The uneasy odor of too much testosterone-based aggression everywhere.

Mammas with multiple children, hanging out on front stoops, yelling blindly at their unclean children.

Liquor bottles everywhere.

No one working, in the middle of a work day.

Here I was, a white guy in a suit and tie, sightseeing while on a business trip.

I was glared at by nearly everyone. Several were openly verbally hostile.

I've never been so happy to leave a neighborhood.

The Hollywood Cemetery neighborhood was, at that time, 95% white.

This is NOT a race thing. It's a culture thing.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Hillman as well. There is a cap of 10% on primary residences in DC so if you bought your house for $30,000 in 1974 and your house is worth 1,000,000 today the amount of property tax you pay and the amount of equity you hold in your house are worlds apart.
There are so many things that make areas that have been ignored or marginalized because people saw the attractiveness of suburban living. But lets be honest, why should a newer generation of people who are upwardly mobile and enjoy a certain lifestyle that doesn’t involve spending 2-3 hours a day in a car have to settle for living in West Bumblef*ck, VA or MD when they can be a short bus ride to work? Trinidad is very attractive in terms of accessibility and proximity to major highways (395, 295, BW Parkway), and most of the neighborhoods in DC.
We need to stop approaching it as a black-white issue and view it for what it is, a perceived class-struggle at its finest. The long-term residents may assume the new residents (who by the way are not all white) are well-to-do and plan on replacing what is there now with yoga studios and organic markets. Sure, maybe in some yuppie wet dreams that’s the world we all should be living in, but the vast majority of people my wife and I have come to know are people who work hard to make enough to own a piece of land anywhere they could have gotten it.
In a perfect world college educated working professionals would all live in Dupont Circle and Georgetown, but when you consider how much student loan debt there is, how little certain jobs pay (teaching, non-profit, government), and how expensive the cost of living is in the DC metro area, a place like Trinidad is a no-brainer option for so many people. Even with our comfortable salaries and living within our means, my wife’s student loans are nearly equal to that of our mortgage so we sure aren’t living the good life. In fact, our neighbor who has a security job has an Escalade where as I am stuck riding on the X2 bus (when it does stop to pick me up and doesn’t pass me by because the front of the bus is too crowded and its not worth the bus drivers effort to tell people to move to the back). I’m no free-market economist but people are ultimately responsible for themselves and if they can’t keep up with the world around them, they deserve to be left behind. Instead of playing the victim individuals need to start empowering themselves and realize that there isn’t a magic lottery ticket that will enable you to live the good life.

-Anon 1:10 AM

Jane said...

The title and proposed questions of this forum are chocked full of loaded terms. Why would anyone who has recently purchased property in a neighborhood like ours participate.

I can tell you this -- I have never felt the least bit privileged even though I am what many would label an evil gentrifier. My parents divorced, we had little money, I attended one of the lowest ranking public schools in SC. I had to struggle to pay for college, and I struggle now to afford my modest home on H St. Meanwhile, many of my neighbors inherited their homes. I wish all I had to pay for were property taxes and maintenance.

Anonymous said...

This is mostly written for the people that live in Trinidad. We have a moment of opportunity to accomplish major change in the neighborhood. It has some very rough patches, and some real gems.

But to change course will need all able bodied and willing neighbors rowing in a common direction. To that end several months ago a few neighbors set out to organize a neighborhood Association.

The Trinidad Neighborhood Association is dedicated to enhancing the quality of life in Trinidad by identifying and addressing community concerns, promoting opportunities for economic development by engaging community stakeholders.

So far the Association has partnered with the ANC to achieve major reforms at the Rec centers in Trinidad to enhance programming for youth and all residents. The Association's Friends of Joe Cole Rec Center Committee is on the cusp of becoming the official friends of group for that rec center, which will allow it to raise money for programming and supplemental maintenance at that facility.

The Association has also re-established block coordinators with the aim working with residents towards achieving a safer more livable community.

Additionally, the association is working with existing neighborhood resources to promote youth out reach and beatification projects.

It's a small start towards a larger goal, but each step forward counts. If you’re interested there's a meeting tomorrow from 7-8:30 PM at the Trinidad Rec Center (1310 Childress Street NE).

I share many of your concerns, I bought in Trinidad because it where I could afford. Not too long after moving into my first house it was shot through, about a week later my car was broken into and they stole a 1997 Sony tape deck. Piles of trash about four feet high and six feed wide, were a mainstay on the vacant lot behind my house. The dealers were everywhere.

I could have moved when I bought a new house in 2008. Instead I purchased again in Trinidad. There's value here, and people that are very committed to improving the quality of life here. I don't fault anyone who's reach the point where they simply need to leave, because it can be tough. But, there comes a point where you have to make decision, to succumb or to overcome. It started with me a few years ago with buying porch furniture and using it, using my laptop outside while the dealers drove by. We had to become a presence again on the block. We began calling and then texting the police and attending PSA meetings.

A small group my neighbors on that block began working together to make a changes. Small things like talking to neighbors and developing a phone tree, circulating rat abatement petitions, building Tree boxes, and improving our home's curb appeal. As block we worked with the ANC and city officials and we demanded better servicesfrom the city and form other neighbors.

It is an up hill battle and possibility the hardest work I've done in my life. I completely understand that it cam be overwhelming. One of the reasons for creating the association was to reach out to those already doing the hard work and to provide assistance towards our common cause. You’re not alone. There are many people interested in and working at achieving sustainable change in Trinidad.

If possible please consider coming out the meeting on Tuesday. You can also reach the Association at TrinidadNeighborhood [at]


Anonymous said...

Anon 1:10 -

I completely understand. I moved to trinidad almost 4 years ago. Each year has been worse than the year before. I am going to move out of this zoo by the end of this year. I'm counting the days.

I cannot wait for the day to come when Trinidad is completely gentrified.

Anonymous said...

Concerned citizen says:

Wouldn't it be much more honest to just say, "We hate white people and we don't want them in our neighborhood? How much more refreshing to say, "It doesn't matter if good things come with gentrification........we just hate white people." than to sugar-coat it.
Look at the dishonesty of our President too and the double-standard attached to his behavior.
How can a man go to an "I hate whitey" church for 20 years and get a free pass?
Remember that fool George Allen? He made one ethnic slur and deservedly lost the chance to represent his party. Obama idly sits silently in a church while whites and Jews are denegrated for TWO DECADES and not only is he now the President but a multi-millionaire author. Nice payoff, huh?
Would you sit in a church where the preacher or priest denigrated homosexuals or blacks or hispanics for 10 seconds? I surely wouldn't. But somehow, it is all strangely tolerated by liberals and apologists.
Double-standards are great, aren't they?

Anonymous said...

Trinidad is not a Zoo. Like many neighborhoods it has its growing edges, but it is not a Zoo (and no the people are not animals). Don't take my word for it, consult MDP they will tell you the crime stats. I think we were one of the PSAs with one of the largest crime reductions in the city. It's in part because of the vigilance of active citizens committed to turning the neighborhood around, and in large part due to the efforts of MDP.

I understand the frustration, but let’s not malign the neighborhood. It's generally good place to live, and by working together we can make it better. Let’s work towards solutions and results and away from mischaracterizations and false comparisons (a neighborhood of hardworking people committed to it’s success is not a zoo).


ibc said...

How can a man go to an "I hate whitey" church for 20 years and get a free pass?

And here's why you can never have a constructive conversation about gentrification issues: like moths to a flame, the right-wing loons, and crypto-racists crawl out from underneath the wallpaper.

Hey, you know 90% of Christian denominations in the country are homophobic and sexist, but having a scary black man raise his voice and point out that slavery and Jim Crow are nothing to be proud of--now that's beyond the pale!

If there's anything that makes less sense than decrying the return of middle-class working people to the urban core, it's these "Obama is a racist" folks. You guys are cut from exactly the same cloth. You deserve each other.

white guy said...

The poster has words like "us" and "they". If white people can be racists, black people can be racist. It is funny that black people embrace the very thing they strive to overcome. There will never be equality until you begin to treat all people equally.

Jill said...

Derek said, "What I think that hurts is when someone moves in to change things the way they want it to be without fully trying to embrace those who have lived there their whole lives."

Are you referring to the trash and the crime? Good job on those two fronts, my African American neighbors.

Anonymous said...

"Maybe we could round up the black middle class now living in PG and Montgomery Counties, put them on boxcars, and repatriate them to the neighborhood."

Yay! It will be like Sunday morning church time all week!

Anonymous said...

I must say....You guys are some of the most ignorant bigoted people i've ever encountered! Not all new homeowners on Capitol Hill are white! On my block alone, right off H Street are 7 homes owned by young, successful African-Americans.....two of them being physicians, and two attorneys. All of us represent the so-called "gentrification" that you are so proud to take credit for. Unfortunately you white people only look at peoples color and assume that we are all a product of your negative stereotypes. I'm glad we don't think the same when driving past all of the poor white trash throughout Virginia and Maryland Eastern Shores! Hey, the trailer parks are cheap as well! Go enjoy talking about the moutain dew drinkin infants with rotten teeth and their meth-headed parents! Oh, I all forgot that poverty and ignorance comes in all colors..So sorry to remind you about the ills of your people as well!

Anonymous said...

I think that we should use transitional neiborhood isateqd of gentrification. Let be real if this was truly a gentrifyiing neiborhood it look more like Georgetown than like, you know, a transitional neighborhood. Webster defines gentification as: "the process of renewal and rebuilding accompanying the influx of middle-class or afflent people into deteriorating areas that often displaces earlier usually poor residents"

As far as the influx of middle-class and affluent people is concerned, I don't see that happening here. The neighborhoods of of Rosedale, Trinidad and other surrounding neighborhoods have always had a mix of middle class and lower income people. Affleuent people? Yeah right.

The rebuilding of H Street is something we are all happy about new and longtime residents alike. It wasn't something that accompanied recent transplants to the area. This was in the works for years. Of course bars and restaurants are going to open where there are people to patronize them. There is still work to do as far as better grocery stores and other places to shop.

From the comments in this posting, I don't see where there is much displacement of the lower income or long time residents. As a matter of fact, I think a lot of them (the oldtimers) have become savvy about the value of their homes. Some are staying in hopes that the neigborhood will get better. Others are selling their homes for large profits. And it probably take a blasting cap to get rid of the rest. In one comment it is the the newcomer who is planning on leaving the area. Sadly with the interest rates droppping and home prices at a all time low, there may more newcomers leaving than moving in.


Hillman said...


I've heard preachers like Reverend Wright. Yes, it's bombastic rhetoric. But usually I don't find it particulary offensive. They quite often make very valid points.

In particular, Reverend Wright's points (at least the selected clips I've heard) seem pretty much on target.

Where some lose me, though, is when they start venturing into conspiracy theories, like that the government / white people generally invented AIDS to devastate the black community, etc.

But I digress.

I've heard far more hateful speech from the mouths of white preachers in America.

Anonymous said...

Joe Englert said:

Yes, it is quite weird to use the word "gentrification" for H or Trinidad at this point. When I bought my first building on H, there were 160 ABANDONED buildings on the strip. Exactly who or what was I displacing??? Same can be said for the neighborhoods. I bought a house on Wylie and there were 6 empty houses on the block alone.
What is always left unsaid is that DC is not a business town like New York or Chicago. The immigrants post-World War II came here to work in and for the Federal Government not to open restaurants, fruit stands or clothes stores (Until the mid 80's when the Koreans, then El Savadoreans and then Ethiopians and Somalis became our business class).
There isn't a strong legacy of a business class here be it in the white or black community. Even the West Indians didn't move here in droves to create their own places like other East Coast cities.
When it comes to housing, since the mid-60's, middle-class families have fled the District. Also, Grandma lives until she is 80 or 90 now. Children whom once inherited houses in the local neighborhood and stayed, picked up and bought their own house in PG or Montgomery County where it was safer and the schools were better.
And while the poor make up a significant portion of the population around our neighborhood, the vast majority live in public housing or section 8 housing. It was never their house to lose in the first place.
When Tommy Wells ran for office a few years ago, he knocked on every door in the neighborhood. He told me only two types of people answered the door: a woman in her 70's or 80's whom was a homeowner or a young couple whom had just bought their house in the last five years.
WPFW and the forum on Georgia Ave are both tardy and delusional. The exodus they are talking about happened long ago. It isn't a badge of honor to be scared of change and people from other ethnic groups. They could use a history lesson. Urban decay, bad government,failing schools, crime and the shifting of black institutions to the suburbs happened decades ago. This attachment to some sentimental golden era of a monoculture is puzzling if not completely pie-in-sky. Hate and prejudice isn't to be excused away for any reason. It doesn't matter from which race or ethnic group you belong. Its plain wrong.

Anonymous said...

Joe, as is a common "bravo!" comment used on places such as, I want to say, "I would like to subscribe to your newsletter."

I continually applaud your work to continue trotting along with blinders to the naysayers. I also generally applaud your efforts to help those around you like Tony and Teddy to name but a few that I personally know. You cut through the crap and get things done and do so in a way that actually helps the community. As an office drone I often times wish I would have followed a path more akin to your own.

With the bickering, you once again cut to the real issue. I'll stop the virtual tugjob now, but want you to know while people bitch about the slowness of the country club it is a testament to their appreciation of your overall efforts and a complete lack of knowledge of the red tape you must cut through with your machete.

Now if you could just take the Capitol Lounge back to the place I once loved, I'll be fully enamored with your efforts.

Anonymous said...

Although property taxes shouldn't push anyone out, I think gentrification can displace renters in DC. On my block in Rosedale, a number of duplexes were renovated back when it looked like we were going to be "Hill East". I'm sure the landlord jacked up the rent. That will force people out. Of course, you can debate whether or not this is "gentrification".

On my block, there are probably three or four row houses vacant. I know for a fact that the previous owners either passed away, or moved out to PG County for the better schools, bigger houses and less gunfire.

My wife and I bought our house about two years ago, and it's been tough. She can't walk around by herself without getting harassed. There's regular gunfire in front of, behind and around my house. You don't know true urban living until you've opened up your window blinds in the morning while sipping a fresh cup of coffee only to see a "Crime Scene Cleanup" van parked across the street.

We've made a real effort to say hello to everyone that walks by, be friendly, and generally ingratiate ourselves to the neighbors--from the grandmas who own the row houses to the drug dealers working the streets in front of, behind, and around my house. I think for this reason no one really bothers us (we haven't been mugged or robbed). I think it was much more dangerous when we were living in Columbia Heights.

Beyond the sexual harassment and gunfire, and the endless amounts of trash that pile up on our streets and sidewalk, the real frustration lies the never ending, and severely depressing, cycle of poverty that we witness every day. Kids having babies at 15 years old (if that old). "Parents" resenting their children for existing and subsequently treating them like shit. Children living on nothing more than Doritos and purple drink (while their parents smoke pot or drive fancy cars). Children in desperate need of any kind of attention other than screaming. A cultural rejection of education. Kids having babies at the age of 15...and on...and on. Fenty can fire all the teachers he wants, but nothings going to change so long as these kids have completely irresponsible and absent parents.

Mind you, this isn't everyone. There are plenty of hardworking people in my neighborhood, who I see cleaning up trash on Saturday mornings, attending community meetings, and generally disliking what's going on with the younger generation. But there's something really entrenched in this city, and I don't see it going away anytime soon.

Hillman said...

"Although property taxes shouldn't push anyone out, I think gentrification can displace renters in DC."

It's hard to have sympathy for someone that has had opportunity to buy their home for the last 40 years but chose instead the much easier path of being a lifelong renter.

Nothing wrong with that. It's just that it carries the risk that eventually your rent will go up.

The other option would have been to purchase your home and put in the work that goes along with that. True, not everyone can purchase, but the considerable majority could have, given the very low prices of real estate prior to six years ago, and the myriad of programs DC and the Feds have for low income buyers.

You can't take the easy route of renting for decades then complain when your rent goes up.

Anonymous said...

"You can't take the easy route of renting for decades then complain when your rent goes up."

Making this argument is called "Cultural Genocide" in certain circles.

oboe said...

re: buying rather than renting...

Making this argument is called "Cultural Genocide" in certain circles.Do these "circles" usually involve giant papier mache heads, earnest hairstyles, laughably feckless chants involving counting up by twos?

I used to live in Aspen, CO until it got too expensive. I sure wish I would've bought in the 70's though...


Anonymous said...

"usually involve giant papier mache heads, earnest hairstyles, laughably feckless chants involving counting up by twos?"No, it involves wig salons, liqour stores, and waistlines below the butt. And more liqour stores.

This circle sees people with different skin color and decides that there is a "Plan" to eradicate their way of life.

There's nothing quite as contridictory as impoverished people with materialistic values.

Unknown said...

Can we just stop. This isn't moving anything forward. People are giving their opinion using coded language. And then others call them racist they they take offense to being called racist and then the merits of those accusations are being debated to no end.

Lets just stop. People don't have to like each other. It would be nice, but really just need to respect each other and try to work together to the end of a common civil peace. Lets try to be civil.


Alan Page said...

robby is my favorite poster in this thread.

Hillman said...

"Can we just stop. This isn't moving anything forward."

I'd argue that this is an important discussion and that we are all adults and can handle frank discussions.

Yes, it should be civilized.

But keep in mind that to date the argument has been simplistic, often racist, and bombastic.... on the part of many in the 'anti-gentrification' crowd.

Perhaps what you are seeing on this thread is the frustration and backlash from that.

Anonymous said...

"Lets try to be civil."

Really? White people are occasionally attacked on the streets of this city because they are white. It often happens to white women walking alone in the Truxton Circle and Shaw neighborhoods.

God forbid you're a white homosexual in this town. If you are, your civil rights will be violated repeatedly; and no prominent civil rights activists will organize a march for you. In fact, the abuses won't be reported in the local media, and you'll be lucky if the police even file a report.

But hey; whitey is evil, so its all good.

Anonymous said...

Hillman and Others:

I get the frustration, but all it seems to do is make people encamp/entrench more.

If a group of us want to meet face to face and talk or even a series of talks where it would be a safe space to vent and listen and force us to go beyond our comfort zones to the end of growing as people, then it would be amazing.

But this is really not that. We are kind of throwing bombs. Yes, at least we are here and it is something. I agree with you that it's better here than nowhere, but how do you reach out to people like that poster just before me. I want to say I am sorry you had that experience. We could go in to stats and get into a pissing contest about who has been hurt worse, but that BS doesn’t build community or friendships. It only serves to belittle the pain of one person or group and serve as and explanation for the position/status of another.

The only thing I can offer is to say as a native, and one who is proud of that, I am sorry to learn that anyone here has been attacked for what ever reason.

I've seen the calls to "white girls" I've seen little black kids being called a bunch of Ni$$ers. I've seen people make fun of Orthodox Jews that may wear traditional hair styles, the LDS kids that ride through the neighborhood and the Amish. Bigotry is not acceptable, under any circumstances. It’s unfortunate at best, and violence and apathetic at its worst

If MPD won’t take you seriously then that's another problem which can be addressed.


Michael said...

Robby, you make a lot of valid points and overall, I agree with you.

You appear to suggest that events which took place 50+ years ago, in DC and elsewhere, somehow have a valid place in the discussion of what is happening in DC today. They do, but only to the exent that we understand how we got here.

But following that logic is a slippery slope. I'm sure I can pull the Rwandan Genocide into the conversation about issues in DC today if we don't keep the issue bounded by the parameters of "here" and "now".

Its important to understand how we got here. But it is impossible to move forward if we don't let it go. I heard that "" has some free time on its hands these days...

Anonymous said...

Seriously, I would love to know why I should feel anything but anger towards some of the inhabitants of Trinidad (I did say some and not most)? Should I feel pity because they are poor? Should I feel bad because of “systematical governmental failure,” or social inequality?
I was born in Bangladesh a place that makes Trinidad look like Beverly Hills. I see “poor kids” walking around with $200 jeans, $400 North Face jackets, and new sneakers all the time. Judging from the hundreds of Little Debbie snacks, Doritos, and other food wrappers I find all over the sidewalks and lawns, no one is going hungry. With shelter, clothing, and food, what the hell else do people need? The things I’ve seen and the reality of what actual poverty is something I think most people cannot put into words; I saw a kid with no limbs and eyes being taken around in a wheel barrow to beg for money, how do you expect to feel bad for these fat little kids running around acting a fool after seeing that?

It’s hard to not make it a black-white issue because people moving into historically African-American neighborhoods all of a sudden become the bad guys. First off, its not just a “white” phenomenon. Yes, the majority of “gentrifies” may be white, but the “new wave” of Trinidad residents do come in all colors.

Why should anyone have to apologize or work hard to “become a part of the community?” Working 50 hours a week in a thankless job in a windowless cube isn’t as great a reward for years of schooling. I’m sorry but I’m not one who wants to make nice with my neighbors, especially taking into account how inconsiderate they are as people (leaving their dogs out all day and night, playing loud music at 5:00 AM, and endless loud arguments like clockwork). It's not like I moved here with hopes of becoming giant douche bag with a cynical outlook on life, but it’s hard not to when you take a look around. I don’t see problems, I see generations of excuses and complacency. How much credibility does this city have after voting for a f’ing waste of life like Marion Barry? What I don’t get is Trinidad folk seem to disregard Uncle Sam, but they think of him as lord and savior when the 1st and 15th roll around.

I never thought I would see the day I started sounding like one of those right-wing old white guys on NPR, but I am actually seeing first hand what it is that they’re talking about. I sure as hell didn’t participate in the reckless procreation that resulted in so many of these kids being born (like the woman at Trinidad Market who was bragging to the guy at the counter about her 11 kids by 7 men), so there is no way in hell I am going to counsel or help after the fact. I already resigned myself to the fact that I will be working hard and paying taxes to pull their weight while, so what more do I need to do? Is it too much to ask to be a bit selfish and think about me and my family without having to worry about everyone else’s kid?

Unknown said...

Michael: I am not sure I got your point or if I did I don't know how you arrived at it from what I wrote. I could be having a slow moment

I guess the truest response, it will be let go in it's season. Some injuries take a while to heal, some pain is fake, but one has to come to that reality in their own time. So no I can't tell black community in DC to get over it. No more than I can tell Armenians to get over the genocide of this people by the Turks. It really isn't appropriate and will just prolong the hurt feelings.

Equally, I don't believe conversations like the topics are valid either. "White people as a the big money a-holes" really doesn't move things forward either. It just makes people entrench more.

Annon From Bangladesh:

I hear, sense and at times have shared in your anger. Last night a band of young men were racing down the street in front of my house at 1:00 AM.

But don't you dare paint all Trinidad Residents, in particular the ones reared here, with such a broad brush. It's insulting to the many Trinidad DC Natives that are not anything like those people you describe.

Sure there are people here that need help and some that need a swift kick in the pants. There are also the college graduates that have become successful and choose the move back. There are those that care passionately about their families and run clean houses and who's children are on the honor roll. This a community where parents walk their children to school and some rearrange their schedules to be able to walk them home in the afternoon. There are some of the most committed parents here that I've ever seen here.

I can't pretend that the people you encountered don't exist, but are in no way the majority.

I've been active in the community for a slim number of years and have had the pleasure to meet all kinds of people in Trinidad.

You can keep complaining or you can do something. I am not asking you to feel sorry for anyone, I am not asking you to rear other people children. I am asking you to engage, yes your family comes first, but wouldn't your family benenfit by your efforts to help make their neighborhood better.

It's easy to stand in judgment of others, it's easy to assume that everyone you see is a welfare queen or drug dealer and then cask aspersions against them. It's harder to introduce yourself, to try to get to know your neighbors, to connect.

In the coming months more community bonding will take place not less. I hope you change your tune, but the neighborhood will improve either way.

It's time you made a decision, do you want to be on the positive arc of change that will make life better for us all, or do you want to hold on to your righteous indignation. I am sure you saw what you saw, I am sure you're justified, in your mind. But before you try to speak out about a community try to speak with the community. The is a PSA meeting Saturday At Joe Cole Rec Center. There was a Trinidad Neighborhood Association meeting last Tuesday (always the 2nd Tuesday of the Month). Monday there's a Friends of Joe Cole meeting Monday, and a a Friends of Trinidad Rec Center meeting Tuesday. There are several on going projects to get involved with to make things better.

Get involved. Give a damn.


Anonymous said...

Clear headed said:

Just say Hope and Change over and over again and magical things will happen.

Anonymous said...

Anon from Bangladesh still has a valid point - it's frustrating to live in a neighborhood where a significant number of residents act without regard to basic civil norms (not littering, noise, illegitimate children, etc.) because their actions exert such a disproportionate influence on everyone else.

It's laudable that there are folks that are actively engaged in trying to better the community through civic groups and they are much appreciated, but it's reasonable to also to simply want to quietly enjoy your own home without having to spend all your spare time trying to clean up the messes other people create.

Anonymous said...

I started by saying SOME and not MOST of people in Trinidad make it unbearable for all. I’d say 99% of the people in Trinidad are decent, hard-working people who have earned what they have in life. It’s not my place to judge my neighbors who have lived in the house they have owned since 1974. They are extremely hard-working and kind people, but their son and grandsons are a different story. The problem is with the 1% in our neighborhood.
When my neighbors are no longer around and their son (who is in his 30’s) is left to smoke weed on the porch and have enlightened conversations with ten of his friends at deafening volumes (the best lines I’ve ever heard during one of these wonderful orations: “Y’all don’t know shit, son. Abraham Lincoln was black. You ever seen his hat? Don’t no white man dress the way he did. You all need to get some education for real!”), or when his sons (two in their mid-teens, one of whom once mistook my wife for his PO) are doing the same thing with their friends, how much hope and change can I expect?
If you’re implying I’m ignorant or na├»ve enough to think that all people born and raised here are on welfare or drug dealers, you’re just like every other person that goes around judging me and everyone else who is newer to the area. If you’re trying to bait me into a race discussion, lets not go there. If you think its hard being black in America, trying being poor and/or Muslim in post-9/11 America regardless of race. During junior high school I saw enough Sheikh get the shit beat out of them by black kids because they treated pulling their turbans off like a sport. When it comes to racism, there’s enough for everyone to take a slice of the pie. If I wasn’t 85% sure I’d get shot, my reaction to my wife getting asked “Is you red dot or feather?” (obviously referring to her race and without the lewd gestures that followed) would be to do like in the old neighborhood and get the tire iron out of the trunk.
I was under the impression that America was a country where personal freedom and choice were a right. I exercise my right to give a damn: I give a damn about myself and my family. I don’t give a damn about “the community” because it’s not my duty to do so. Trinidad is not a kibbutz where the success of all will lead to the success of the individual. Why is it that I have to “get involved” in order to enjoy my neighborhood? I paid a lot of money for my house, and I pay a lot of money in taxes, what more do I have to do? I didn’t know that because I purchased a home here that I had to go community meetings and plant trees in order to live a good life.
I will complain and I will bitch because THIS SUCKS. You know what I think of when I think of Joe Cole? I think of the guy who was shot 17 times in front of it. I think of the kids that give dirty looks and curse at my wife and I as we turn onto Montello from Morse. I sure hope there is “community bonding” but I hope that “bonding” doesn’t involve putting teddy bears by trees this summer. I’m not speaking for anyone else because I don’t know their life story, but it was one hell of a journey getting here (meaning having a “good” job, owning a house, all things “American dream”), but seeing the generations of shit piled up due to a lack of care is frustrating. We live within two miles of the Capitol of the greatest nation in the world, yet we deal with more violence than people in Northern Iraq.
I’m not going to continue fooling myself into thinking this turd of a neighborhood has a cream filling. I took the first bite two years ago and had “hope” then but now I can definitely say its shit on the outside and shit on the inside. I don’t really care if 99% of the people here have PhDs and do everything right, the 1% that ruins the experience for everyone. It’s fine and dandy that trees and being planted and community centers are being built (like they always have been), if I’m on my couch watching TV I don’t want to get shot (the likeliness of that is not impossible being that my house was fired on back in the day by my neighbor…not to harp on that AGAIN). I’m sure we all want to see a better Trinidad, but where is the guarantee we will see that day? Living in a civilized society in which you’ve followed the rules merits you a lifestyle of comfort and safety at the very least, especially when you live in the city that houses the institutions that created and uphold those very rules.
It’s not like the problems we see today came out of the blue, Donny Hathaway didn’t record “Little Ghetto Boy” and Marvin didn’t record “What’s Going On?” in December of 2008. It's been the same old song since the 60's. Instead of fixing any of the problems that existed, the problems became the norm. The new norm needs to be gentrification, that is my firm belief. You can make all the points you want for the “natives” (whether black, white, yellow, purple, or blue), but the only color that can salvage this neighborhood is green.

-"Anonymous from Bangladesh"

Anonymous said...

I need a shower after reading all of this hateful rhetoric! Now I know what my neighbors are really thinking when they wave and smile. It always floors me when white folks are floored when they learn someone doesn't like them, or has pre-judged them based on their white skin. How do you think black people felt when that kind of hatred and judgement was legislated!? You cannot quickly undo generations of instilled fear and hatred by giving your neighbor kid an Xbox dude. You think small. And I hope you move to upper Caucasia and enjoy yourself. I'd take an boarded-up house over you as my neighbor any day.


Unknown said...

Anon From B.

Again, if you want peace you have to be willing to work for it. After sending my last comment. I walked outside, because I actually live across the street from Joe Cole on Morse, I saw a sea of people behaving badly. I called the police and I plan to brought it up at the PSA 504 meeting last Saturday.

Did I jump in the crowd and put myself and family in danger, no. Did I get involved to the extent that I had no personal time, no. It took One minute to call the police and an hour on Saturday to discuss this and other issues with the MPD at the PSA 504 meeting. I got a commitment from them to ensure that Officers would be at the rec centers at closing to make sure kids left the grounds.

So in total it took 1 Hour and One Minute.

Maybe that's too much for you, I am not sure.

There are no guarantees, but the alternative is to continue bitching and doing nothing. You way hasn't gotten you very far, why not try helping and not heckling.

You have the right to complain, no it's not perfect here, but good neighborhoods don't just happen, it takes committed neighbors and very hard work to keep and maintain good neighborhoods.

Instead of hoping for the blue Fairly of Gentrification, I suggest that you work for peace, work for justice, work for change.


roxanneismyalterego said...

Man. I can see I'm late on this discussion, and, given the fact that I'm pretty much a reverse racist (i.e. a white person who in general dislikes white people, especially some of the ones who seem to be commenting here), I'm gonna keep myself out of the "debate" here.

However, if so many of you are SOOOOOO pissed about how much trash gets thrown into the streets of Trinidad, have you considered the fact that the city of DC seems to have placed very few TRASH CANS in the area?

Hillman said...


Generally the trash that are provided go empty and the trash is still just thrown on the ground. I can't coun't how many times I passed the trash cans on Barracks Row and at metro stops (before the BID people were hired to clean up) to see them half empty but the streets around littered with garbage.

It's a cultural thing.

Hillman said...


It's great that you called the police on the problem you saw. You will most likely see a police presence there for a week or so, then nothing.

But DC residents have been calling the police for 40 years now. At some point you just get worn out.

Hillman said...

Anonymous from Bangladesh makes a very valid point about the 'poverty' of DC neighborhoods, when compared to real poverty in much of the rest of the world.

That's not to say that we don't recognize that relative poverty plays a role. But a FAR bigger role is the cultural norms that we've encouraged. The cultural norm that says it's ok to gang bang on the corner, that's it's ok to have numerous kids on the public dime, the cultural norm that teaches that everything is someone else's fault, that it's ok to steal and bully those that are new in the neighborhood and don't look like you, that we are all owed something by someone else.

In short, we've babied thuggery and a total lack of responsibility for decades, through our public policy choices and our willingness to phrase everything in terms of race instead of specific subculture problems.

oboe said...

I need a shower after reading all of this hateful rhetoric! Now I know what my neighbors are really thinking when they wave and smile. It always floors me when white folks are floored when they learn someone doesn't like them, or has pre-judged them based on their white skin.Right, all your neighbors are thinking racist thoughts while they wave at you. Meanwhile, Anon from Bangladesh is a racist because he points out that only 1% of the residents of Trinidad are scumbags, while the rest are hard-working, stand-up folks.

Seems to me you need to meditate a while on just who the racist is.

Anonymous said...

Hillman & All:

The choice is there, either join the cause to help, or don't. It's that simple. You have the right to complain. I don't disagree with the public policy impacts you describe, but I don't own a WABAC machine. I know going forward, we need to work with the police and with each other. 40 years and maybe 40 more years.

The way to not feel burned out, as I do almost daily, is to get others involved. I do think that basic neighborhood attentivness, and calling the police when things are out of sorts isn't so much to ask for.

Basic stuff. Not superhero stuff.


Willem said...

""White people as a the big money a-holes""

That's funny. In the government agency where I work (downtown), the big money is being paid to black folks.

And those black folks live in the suburbs. They're stunned that I own a home in DC.

Clerot said...

Anon from Bangladesh gets the award for unvarnished honesty; painful as it may be.

And really; after nearly 20 years in this city.... trash is on the ground because the prevailing culture says that you toss your trash on the ground, not in a trash can.

Unknown said...

Willem is was a concept I reject.

Clerot: Funny you said that. I've been to two public meeting this week and haven't seen Annon for B. There. So what ever truth they are speaking, well they are not doing a damn thing to make things better.

But Complain on. Some thing you're speaking a painful truth, others just think you're blowing smoke. Or maybe I am just to close to actually getting things done worry about someone who would rather gripe than give a damn.


Hillman said...

"I've been to two public meeting this week and haven't seen Annon for B. There. So what ever truth they are speaking, well they are not doing a damn thing to make things better."

You don't have to go to 'public meetings' to be a good, contributing citizen, making a difference where you live.

I've been to countless neighborhood meetings in my day. I'd say maybe 10% of them were actually useful. The rest were pretty much a waste of time.

Anonymous said...

Seriously, Robby, you have to get away from using attendance at community meetings and stuff like that as a yardstick to measure whether someone has the right to be upset about some of the issues in their neighborhood. Anon from B or anyone else can gripe all they want without being a part-time social worker or neighborhood busybody.

I'm glad we have folks like you who are so active, but cut out the self-righteousness. People have other things to attend to, like being a spouse, parent, maybe small business owner. Everyone has a finite amount of time and energy and if some folks spend it on stuff outside of community activism, that's their call.

Shawster said...

To summarize, if you disapprove of people choosing to poop and pee in public, and dropping litter wherever they're standing or walking;

YOU need to take responsibility for their behavior and get involved by attending 'community meetings' at which these issues are discussed.

As for drugs and violence; everyone knows those are a result of government conspiracy. You need to take responsibility for those aspects of your neighborhood as well.