DCentric » East of the River http://dcentric.wamu.org Race, Class, The District. Wed, 16 May 2012 20:20:35 +0000 en hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.2.1 Copyright © WAMU Is Gentrification Really Why D.C. Has Fewer Murders? http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/01/is-gentrification-really-why-d-c-has-fewer-murders/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/01/is-gentrification-really-why-d-c-has-fewer-murders/#comments Thu, 12 Jan 2012 15:12:30 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=13150 Continue reading ]]>

Brandon Anderson / Flickr

D.C. was once called “Murder Capital.” In 1991, at the height of the crack epidemic, 479 people were murdered. But the end of 2011 brought good news: the number of homicides in D.C. had reached a 50-year low. The Washington Post reported that meanwhile, Prince George’s County experienced a slight increase in its number of murders, and that D.C.’s poorer residents moving into the county have taken neighborhood disputes and other issues with them, contributing to the uptick in crime.

Given the city’s demographic changes, a number of people are pointing to one reason in particular: gentrification. The narrative seems logical enough: violent crime tends to be higher in poorer neighborhoods, and demographic changes have left D.C. a wealthier city. That may make sense in D.C. neighborhoods where there has been gentrification. But it doesn’t fit when examining District communities that have historically had the most homicides and the highest poverty rates.

Since 1990, the percentage of people living in poverty has remained relatively stable or slightly increased in the east of the Anacostia River communities, places which also experienced the biggest recent decreases in murders. The number of murders dropped by 55 percent in 2011 in the police’s 7th District, where more than one-third of people live below the poverty line, according to census estimates. In 1990, about 28 percent of residents there were impoverished.

In recent decades, many people moving out of east of the river communities settled in Prince George’s County. But those individuals who were moving weren’t the poorest people in their communities, and they didn’t leave because of gentrification, according to demographer Roderick J. Harrison. Many moved to the suburbs because they could afford to and they were getting more for their money further away from the city.

What does explain the drop in murders east of the river? For one, violent crime nationwide is on the decline, and the exact reasons aren’t fully known.

“I don’t think anybody can say exactly what it is,” D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier says of dropping crime in D.C. “But I disagree that the demographics and the economic development is solely responsible. I think it contributes to our overall fight of crime but it is just one of many, many things.”

She continues: “East of the river is where we’ve seen the most success and there’s been very little [demographic or economic] change in that area of the city.”

Chief Lanier does cite a few reasons she believes contributed to the drop in of east of the river murders: a more coordinated policing effort; the addition of 100 patrol officers to those communities; and almost all of the Metropolitan Police Department’s specialty units focusing on violent crimes and offenders in the department’s 7th District.

“The other thing that I think is 50 percent responsible is that the community over there has been absolutely tremendous in terms of working with police,” Chief Lanier says. “That has historically not been the case. We had to go out there and really build relationships with people in the neighborhood. They have to trust us.”

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Cupcakes and Bulletproof Glass http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/11/cupcakes-and-bulletproof-glass/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/11/cupcakes-and-bulletproof-glass/#comments Tue, 01 Nov 2011 14:01:20 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=11875 Continue reading ]]>

lamantin / Flickr

Nothing says neighborhood change and gentrification like a cupcake shop. But what if such a shop has bulletproof glass inside? The Washington City Paper reports that the first cupcake shop east of the Anacostia River, Olivia’s Cupcakes, has a “thick sheet” of bullet-resistant glass behind the counter:

“It broke my heart to do that, but it’s a deterrent,” says proprietor Cindy Bullock, who runs the cupcake shop alongside her husband, Bob Bullock, and their daughters, Kristina, 20, and Alexis, 18.

“Several people asked (about the glass) and said, ‘It’s a beautiful shop, its unfortunate that you have it up,’ but we had to have it,” Bullock says.

“I have owned several business in this area and we have been robbed several times,” she explains. “We wanted to make [the shop] elegant and beautiful, but because of the teenagers and having my children here we wanted to protect them.”

D.C.’s bullet resistant glass initially appeared in stores in the wake of the 1968 riots, and became much more widespread at the height of the crack epidemic. Like the Bullocks, many store owners have installed glass after bad experiences.

In gentrifying neighborhoods, the glass barricade coming down is a turning point. It’s also sometimes necessary to appeal to a wealthier clientele. Take Logan Circle, where most liquor and convenience stores had the glass for decades. Then Whole Foods opened on P Street, NW in 2000. Property values rose, and Amare Lucas, owner of Best-In Liquors on P and 15th streets NW decided to take down his glass. The more inviting atmosphere, along with new stock he brought in, attracted more customers, new and longtime residents alike. “Some [customers] told me they had been in the neighborhood for 15 years, kind of passing the store by because of the glass,” Lucas told Washington City Paper‘s Dave Jamieson in 2005. “They’re in my store now. It really gives you a satisfaction.”

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D.C. Circulator Going East of the River in October http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/08/d-c-circulator-going-east-of-the-river-in-october/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/08/d-c-circulator-going-east-of-the-river-in-october/#comments Thu, 04 Aug 2011 15:46:17 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=9342 Continue reading ]]>

Elvert Barnes / Flickr

Riding D.C. Circulator can be much more pleasant than riding Metrobus; lower fares, more frequent buses and simple, quick routes. Starting Oct. 3, the buses will drive east of the Anacostia River for the first time.

The D.C. Department of Transportation began D.C. Circulator in 2005 as an easy way to get around areas that had a lot of activity. Most of the buses travel in Northwest. But the Circulator may end up serving other purposes as well in Ward 8, where 20 percent of people earn less than $10,000 a year and the unemployment rate is higher than 20 percent.

“You can live in the same city and there can be so many walls, real and perceived, for children, families and households who want to enjoy their D.C. experience,” ANC 8D06 Commissioner Kianna Fowlkes said during Tuesday’s DDOT public hearing. “Circulator is a really good way to extend over to this side and make us feel like we have access to the same sites, cultural or economic, to jobs, to the same food.”

Fares cost $1, which is 50 cents cheaper than Metrobus. The buses are more reliable, arriving every 10 minutes, and only make three or four stops a mile. The buses are proposed to start at Skyland and arrive at the Harris Teeter and the Potomac Avenue Metro.


The proposed circulator route is in green.

Residents at Tuesday’s public hearing said they were eager for the service, but they wanted the route to run deeper through their communities. Fowlkes pushed for more transportation options in the Bellevue neighborhood. Brenda Richardson of Ward 8 Councilman Marion Barry‘s office said there should be service to the southern parts of Ward 8.  “The community is very concerned that it looks like just an Anacostia Circulator,” Richardson said.

“You can live in the same city and there can be so many walls, real and perceived.”

Victoria Fitzgerald of Congress Heights said she wants an easier way to get around east of the river communities: “There are a lot of people who travel within the area who find it difficult to do so without taking two or three buses,” she said.

Several Metrobuses already travel along Good Hope Road SE, leading some to worry that D.C. Circulator route will get few riders and could face cancellation as a result.

“I’m a bit concerned that this is duplicating a service that’s already there,” Anacostia resident Stephen Rice said.

DDOT has a limited number of buses to work with, so it’s unlikely the agency can meet many demands for more connections. But DDOT plans to start new routes over the next 10 years which will connect Congress Heights to H Street NE and Minnesota Avenue to Skyland [PDF].

“We want to be able to offer service to every important place, but we can’t run around empty buses, either,” said Aaron Overman, Mass Transit Deputy Associate Director for DDOT.

D.C. Circulator should be viewed as an express route, Overman said. “The Circulator does best when we do something different than Metrobus.”

Residents still have time to voice concerns, which will be forwarded to the mayor’s office before the route is finalized. A final public hearing will be held 6 p.m., tonight at the Anacostia Public Library, 1800 Good Hope Road SE.

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Capital Bikeshare Expansion: Who Should Get New Stations? http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/05/capital-bikeshare-expansion-who-should-get-new-stations/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/05/capital-bikeshare-expansion-who-should-get-new-stations/#comments Tue, 24 May 2011 19:43:08 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=7329 Continue reading ]]>

Flickr: Rudi Riet

Greater Greater Washington has mapped out Capital Bikeshare usage ahead of Wednesday night’s public meeting on the system’s expansion.

The District Department of Transportation is poised to expand Capital Bikeshare by 25 new stations this summer, choosing from a list of 55 candidates. Of those 55, five are east of the Anacostia River, in the District’s poorest wards.

The least-used of the existing stations are almost all located east of the Anacostia:

Of course we’d expect the stations in the middle to be used the most. Likewise is true of Metro. That doesn’t mean that the peripheral bikeshare stations or Metro stations aren’t useful.

And it makes sense that peripheral stations would be used less given that bikeshare works best when stations are clustered together — the fewer the stations nearby, the less the usage. Adding more east of the river could be one way to increase usage of the existing stations, although doing so doesn’t address the other obstacles that prevent lower-income residents from using the bikes.

Given the documented low usage of the existing stations some fear calls to abandon the program altogether in parts of Wards 7 and 8. Groups such as the Washington Area Bicyclist Association are actively working to encourage bicycling among Ward 7 and 8 residents, and DDOT has no plans of giving up in those neighborhoods. But whether they’ll be able to expand there when there is so much demand elsewhere is another matter.

Wednesday’s meeting will be held from 6 to 8 p.m., at 441 4th St., NW, Room 1107.

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How To Encourage Biking East Of The River: First, Don’t Tell Everyone http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/05/how-to-encourage-biking-east-of-the-river-first-dont-tell-everyone/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/05/how-to-encourage-biking-east-of-the-river-first-dont-tell-everyone/#comments Mon, 09 May 2011 20:16:06 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=6714 Continue reading ]]>

Courtesy of Eric Gilliland/Capital Bikeshare

Students listen to WABA instructor Sarah Miller explain how to check a bike before going for a ride.

About 10 people mounted pedal-less bikes and coasted downhill in front of the Anacostia Library on Saturday.

Once they had their balance, they earned one pedal. Then, two. Within an hour, almost all were riding bikes, thanks to two Washington Area Bicyclist Association instructors.

Some of the students in WABA’s adult riding class, like 59-year-old Mary Buckley, hadn’t been on a bike since childhood. Others, like 32-year-old LaStar Matthew, had never learned how to ride a bike in the first place.

Over the past three weeks, WABA has offered free classes instructing adults on how to ride bikes and how to ride them confidently in the city. But usually whenever the organization advertises such classes, which are enormously popular, “our core contingency follows us,” WABA executive director Shane Farthing said. People from Northwest D.C., or even Maryland and Virginia, fill up the classes rather than the Ward 7 and 8 residents the classes are intended to serve.

So this time around, WABA limited its advertising to posting fliers and other materials around the neighborhoods where the classes were to be held. And it worked: although the turnout was comparatively low, as expected by WABA, the participants were mostly from the neighborhoods. The last class had the highest turnout. Matthew saw a flier posted at her bus stop. Others found out at the library or via word-of-mouth.

The outreach is part of Farthing’s goal for the year. He wants to push bike advocacy in Wards 7 and 8, and WABA is doing it through grassroots methods such as these classes, setting up mobile bike shops and sending bike “ambassadors” to ride daily East of the River and encourage cyclists living in the neighborhoods.

“Especially where economic conditions are a little tougher, I think having a bike is a way to remove that expense of a car” or remove the uncertainty of depending on public transportation, Farthing said. “[Biking] is such a solution to all of the problems there, but until you have enough folks riding, you don’t have enough of a demand to get the facilities to make it safe.”

Courtesy of Eric Gilliland/Capital Bikeshare

Elan Dawkins (left) gets some tips from instructor Marya McQuirter (right) before riding downhill on a Captial Bikeshare bike.

Saturday’s students were sold on the idea of bikes benefiting them. Buckley said she planned to start riding around Anacostia Park and encouraging a neighbor to join her. Elan Dawkins, 41, said she wanted to learn to ride because “of the easy access” bikes offer. “Most people take the bus here,” she said.

Yvette Muhammad, who came to Saturday’s class to support some students, noted that Ward 8 is a food desert with high obesity rates.

“So it could be a real benefit to people in this neighborhood if they were able to carry groceries [on the bikes],” she said.

There could be more facilities, soon: Capital Bikeshare, a partnership between D.C.’s Department of Transportation and Arlington, is looking to expand its system by 25 stations this summer, and five of the possible additions are in Wards 7 and 8. But the list of possible stations is 55-long and there is plenty of demand in other parts of the city to contend with the relatively low usage of the existing stations East of the River.

“We see a citywide expansion as something that’s good for us” Capital Bikeshare general manager Eric Gilliland said. “But it is a balancing act between serving existing customers and encouraging new ones.”

Muhammad pointed out that her neighborhood needs more stations to make a feasible alternative to other modes of transportation.

“If you don’t live or work near one of these, then how would you get here to ride the bikes? It’s good to have it here but it’s just not the whole piece,” she said.

The bikeshare system does work best when there are multiple stations clustered together, which is not the case in these parts of D.C. Also, you need a credit card to sign up, and even if you take a bike out for a day – daily memberships cost $5 –  a $101 security hold is placed on your credit card in case the bike isn’t returned. Such a hold could push some people over their credit card limits.

DDOT spokeswoman John Lisle has said that his agency is currently working on a program that would give bikeshare-specific credit cards to some users.

During the class, the teachers provided instruction on how to properly care for and maintain a bike. One of the lessons included getting the right kind of lubricant for bike chains.

“You can go to a bike store to get that,” instructor Marya McQuirter said. But then she acknowledged that the closest shop was on Capitol Hill.

“Maybe we could open one up here,” said instructor Sarah Miller.

Perhaps. Or maybe as more adults ride bikes in the neighborhood, there will be enough of a demand for a bike shop to open independently. That’s the goal, anyway.

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Capital Bikeshare: 5 New Stations May Go East of the River http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/04/capital-bikeshare-5-new-stations-may-go-east-of-the-river/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/04/capital-bikeshare-5-new-stations-may-go-east-of-the-river/#comments Wed, 20 Apr 2011 19:12:36 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=5947 Continue reading ]]> Captial Bikeshare is poised to expand by 25 stations and the District Department of Transportation released a map today showing potential sites for the expansion of the system.

The new stations will be picked out of a list of 55 possibilities, including five sites East of the River in Wards 7 and 8. Why so few proposed sites in such a large swath of the District?

Part of the reason seems to be the amount of density needed to support stations, as well as demand. It’s well documented that use is low East of the River and the demand in Downtown is quite high. We spoke with DDOT spokesman John Lisle a few weeks ago to get more thoughts on how the agency will pick where bike stations go, and he said there are definitely “competing interests” at hand.


Few stations exist East of the Anacosita River (in red).

First, there’s the need for infill stations downtown. “We need to expand the size of some of our stations and we need to add more stations to really meet the demand there because that’s where it’s the highest,” Lisle said. And boy, is demand high.

And then there’s the desire to add more stations in the outer neighborhoods to create a citywide system and give greater accessibility to more people. But doing so can be tricky.

“I think one of the things you have to acknowledge is that somebody who is already into cycling, or say lives in Columbia Heights, a young professional, has a credit card, commutes downtown — it all makes sense from there. For some people, it’s much easier to buy into or use the system. For them, it’s like this great thing, ‘I’ve been waiting for this,’” Lisle said. “In other parts of the city, we may have to do more work in terms of educating people as far as what is bikeshare, why are we putting these bikes on the street, how can you use it.”

Education is a major factor playing into low usage, and bike advocacy group Washington Area Bicyclist Association already has plans to conduct more outreach around bikesharing in neighborhoods East of the Anacostia River. And there are several other reasons for low usage, including the cost ($75 for a year membership) and few stations (10 in total) located far apart. Capital Bikeshare works best when a group of stations are close to one another — if they’re few and far apart, there’s less incentive to use the bikes.

Another obstacle may be the need for a credit card to register, but Lisle said DDOT is in the process of working on a program that would allow some riders to use the bikes even if they don’t have a credit card.

Although it may be tempting to pull existing stations or not install new ones East of the River, DDOT doesn’t plan to abandon bikesharing in parts of Wards 7 and 8 — sure, only five new stations are proposed in that part of town, but at the same time, only two new stations have been proposed for Georgetown.

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Tweet of the Day, 04.06 http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/04/tweet-of-the-day-04-06/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2011/04/tweet-of-the-day-04-06/#comments Wed, 06 Apr 2011 18:00:46 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=5440 Continue reading ]]>
DC has 46 historic districts, of which only 2 are east of the Anacostia River. Is River East area less valuable, or do people just not care?
David Garber
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