It’s been a while since I’ve written. But I have something to show for it! For the last five months, I’ve been interviewing residents, writing, and editing. I wrote an article for a D.C. nonprofit, ONE DC, about a redevelopment project that will potentially displace tenants.
Imagine your granddaughter, age seven, is playing on the grass in front of your apartment building with a group of kids that live in your complex. You and several neighbors are watching over them. A security guard approaches and demands that you get off the grass and go on the sidewalk that lines the edges of Brentwood Road, a bustling four-lane street. This is the first time you’ve heard of this rule. Kids used to be able to play where they wanted. These new, ever-changing rules seem to be an element of the redevelopment initiative, the same initiative which is also transferring families around.
This is what Neeka Sullivan, a nine-year Brookland Manor resident, said she experienced in early May. Brookland Manor is an affordable housing complex in Northeast DC that is set to be demolished and renovated starting in 2017. Residents said they have experienced an uptick in numbers of violations and infractions given for activities like children playing on the grass or residents sitting on their front porches. “The kids don’t have nowhere to play no more. All they have is the steps, the rails, and the trash thing,” Sullivan said, referring to a dumpster that she tries to keep the children away from.
The situation has turned into a lockdown, said Will Merrifield, a lawyer who represents the tenants. “They are telling people to go inside if they’re outside. They’re hassling old women and children.” Sullivan corroborates this claim. “We don’t have nothing on paper but it’s happening,” Sullivan said. “If a lot of whites lived in this neighborhood, [security] wouldn’t be doing things like they doing.” And, according to Sullivan and other residents, the situation has worsened in the last month.
“I can’t respond to that,” Michael Meers, the Executive Vice President for Mid-City Financial Corporation, said in regards to the reported increase in harassment by security staff. “I’m not aware of any changes.” Meers said that the company’s private activities are in full support of its public commitments.
Yet tenants and advocates are concerned about the company’s public commitments as well. The new design cuts over 160 of the current low-cost units. Merrifield called this “criminal” because the District is in midst of an affordable housing crisis. The DC Fiscal Policy Institute reported that in 2015, the city contained half as many inexpensive units than in 2002.
Thanks, everyone, for all the support!