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Ward 4 Dispatch: Petworth Library Redesign, Lafayette Field, Safety Updates, and DC Budget Season

Dear Neighbors,

It seems like spring is finally upon us! I hope you’ve been able to make time to enjoy the warm weather this week. I’m checking in with updates on Petworth Library upgrades, the Lafayette-Pointer erosion and field project, public safety and traffic safety, DC budget priorities, Council budget hearings, road closures for the Rock and Roll half marathon this weekend, DC TAG and DC Futures applications opening, local events, community resources, and more!

Upgrades Coming to Petworth Library

This week I visited Petworth Library with DCPL leadership and our local library staff to preview important upgrades coming to the library next year through the $1.5 million we secured in the DC budget. The library already underwent a major renovation in 2009, so this project will focus on improvements like reorganizing the library to better meet the needs of children and teens, upgrading flooring, installing new curated and age-appropriate furniture, maintaining historic library features, adding a water fountain upstairs, addressing water intrusion issues, improving acoustics in meeting spaces, and (hopefully) adding technology that can facilitate hybrid in-person-and-virtual meetings. As part of these changes, DCPL plans to move the teen space up to the second floor and move the adult space down to the first floor — while also adding a new service point upstairs for youth. DCPL plans to engage the Friends of Petworth Library group, local teens, and the broader community about the design of the project, which it hopes to finalize this summer. We also discussed how to improve safety at Petworth Library, including improving security camera coverage outside, maintaining a presence from DCPL security personnel, and coordinating with MPD and the Safe Passage teams that are present outside the library. Please note that DCPL will need to close Petworth Library for up to 5 months starting at the end of 2024 or the start of 2025 to renovate the space. To avoid any unnecessary details, DCPL will only close the library once it has all the construction materials it needs to build the upgrades quickly. DCPL also assured me that library staff would not lose their jobs during this period, and that it would also make accommodations to ensure Petworth residents retain access to some library services. I am looking forward to sharing more about the Petworth Library renovations later this year! 

Lafayette-Pointer Erosion and Field Project

On Wednesday, staff from DGS and DCPS announced plans to replace the lower grass field at Lafayette Elementary with an artificial turf field — specifically an Ecogrind infill system manufactured by FieldTurf. Replacing the field is part of the broader, multi-million-dollar Lafayette-Pointer Water Mitigation and Field Replacement Project that includes plans to de-compact the upper field, install additional bioretention facilities, and prevent erosion throughout this large, shared DCPS and DPR site. Since Lafayette Elementary was rebuilt in 2016, the park has been plagued by frequent washouts that left the current upper and lower fields in very poor condition. Unfortunately, despite clear inquiries from myself, our staff, and ANC 3/4G, DGS and DCPS made this decision internally without community engagement and failed to adequately explain the factors that informed their decision during this week’s meeting. We know many residents prefer natural grass field here, citing commitments made in 2016 and concerns that the current fields are in poor condition primarily because of neglect. DGS and DCPS, as well as a parent representative of Lafayette’s Home and School Association, spoke in favor of an artificial turf field citing the field’s frequent usage and DGS’ policy to let grass fields rest idle in the winter months, which could limit students’ access to the field for recess. I’m following up with DCPS, DGS, and the City Administrator to seek further community engagement and transparency around this issue.

Safety Updates: Arrests for Robberies

Over the past few days, MPD has made several important arrests in robbery cases in our community. On Tuesday, officers responded to an attempted robbery on the field by 3rd and Whittier NW at Takoma Rec Center that resulted in a non-fatal stabbing. They were able to arrest two individuals in connection to this attack, and their cases are moving forward with the Office of the Attorney General. The victim in this case was transported to an area hospital for treatment and is in stable condition. Fourth District is increasing its presence in Takoma during school dismissal to help ensure safety for all the students from different schools who gather in the neighborhood’s parks and Metro Station. This week, MPD also announced an arrest in an armed robbery that took place last month on the 5000 block of 8th Street NW in Brightwood Park. And last week, an individual was arrested and charged for multiple armed carjackings in Petworth, Sixteenth Street Heights, Brightwood, and Takoma. As I have said before, solving cases and bringing charges against repeat robbery suspects is necessary to curb these violent and traumatizing offenses. In 2023, only a quarter of armed robbery cases in the District were closed, so it is encouraging that we are seeing MPD regularly make arrests for robberies in our community this year to disrupt these patterns.

MPD is also seeking information or video of a driver in a grey Chevy with DC plates that struck a mother and her child (who thankfully will be okay) on a pedestrian crosswalk on Grant Circle and then fled the scene. Please contact MPD if you have any information related to the hit-and-run, which took place near the northern entrance on Illinois Avenue on Tuesday, March 12 at approximately 6:20pm. I met with DDOT’s director yesterday and reiterated the importance of overhauling traffic safety on Grant Circle. DDOT first committed to me in 2022 that they would make major improvements to the Circle, and they have since worked with our office, ANC 4C, and neighbors to put forward a plan. DDOT is updating the plan to address major issues raised by our community, and they are determined to secure the funding they need to implement this project in 2025 as planned. DDOT also plans to add a Rectangular Rapid Flash Beacon (RRFB) at the Varnum crosswalk on the west side of the Circle, and they authorized a traffic signal study for a much-needed traffic light at New Hampshire & Taylor NW. Stay tuned for a community meeting soon to share the new design. Thank you to every neighbor who has been weighing in to shape this project for the better. Grant Circle needs to be safe for all families.

And finally, my team and I have been working to address safety concerns at Petworth Rec Center. I visited the rec center myself this week to check in on these issues. MPD, DPR Park Rangers, Roving Leaders, and Cure the Streets violence interrupters are all increasing their engagement around the rec center to ensure that community members can continue to safely enjoy the facilities. This also speaks to how critical it is to have adequate staffing at our DPR rec centers to monitor and quickly resolve problems as they arise.

Fighting for Ward 4 Budget Priorities

This week I wrote to Mayor Bowser to outline the budget priorities that I hope will be reflected in the proposed DC budget she releases later this month for Fiscal Year 2025. I urged for strong investments in housing and health, such as fully funding emergency rental assistance, making DC’s SNAP expansion permanent, and expanding support for seniors. I urged the Mayor to prioritize our children by restoring all cuts to DCPS school budgets, increasing safety and mental health supports for students, and securing a local swing space for Whittier Elementary. I made the case for increased investment to ensure our schools, rec centers, and other DC buildings are in good condition, secure, and accessible. And most importantly, I outlined key investments we need to make our communities and our streets safe. That includes funding violence prevention programs, increased support for crime victims and survivors of domestic violence, renovations for Fourth District, conflict resolution classes in our schools, additional support for public transit, new badly-needed traffic signals, and traffic safety upgrades around schools. And as Ward 4 Councilmember, I called attention to the critical need for the Mayor to follow through on bringing a new public library on Kennedy Street, to renovate Shepherd Park Juanita E. Thornton Library at its current location, and to fund the Broad Branch Road, Grant Circle, and Eastern Avenue Rehabilitation Projects in Ward 4. Please read my full request letter to the Mayor for a full list of budget priorities.

Prepare to Weigh In on the DC Budget

Next week, Mayor Bowser is expected to release her proposed DC budget for next fiscal year. And in just 10 days, the Council will begin holding budget oversight hearings on how the proposed budget will impact our communities. There is little doubt that the lapse in federal funding, DC’s slowing revenue growth, and our growing investments in Metro and the workers who keep the District running will make the DC budget process more challenging this year. We already know that several of our schools are facing budget cuts, and that nearly every agency is on the table for budget reductions. Please take a moment to review the full schedule of budget hearings and sign up to speak or submit comments on the issues that matter most to you. Your voice will matter even more during a tough budget year. And we need residents to make it clear that DC will not become safer or stronger if we underfund schools, violence prevention, food assistance, housing, or other programs that DC families depend on. My team can answer any questions you have about participating in Council budget hearings at I am eager to hear from you as we kick off another budget year!

Community Resources

New DC Traffic Camera Website

DDOT has a new dedicated website for its Automated Traffic Enforcement program that places traffic cameras across DC to curb traffic infractions and improve safety on our roadways. Among other features, the website includes an interactive map of all the speeding, stop light, stop sign, and bus lane traffic cameras in Ward 4 and across DC that neighbors can check out.

Apply for DC Futures and DC TAG Tuition Aid

Applications are now open for the DC Futures Program, DC Tuition Assistance Grant (DC TAG), and the Mayor’s Scholars Undergraduate Program. These are three popular tuition support programs for DC residents pursuing higher education. Applications for all three programs were delayed because the federal government delayed releasing this year’s FAFSA to mid-March (instead of January). In response, DC shifted the timeline for applications to DC Futures, DC TAG, and Mayor’s Scholars to accommodate the change. Learn more and apply!

What Should DPR Do With Its Courts?

Are you interested in more opportunities to play basketball, futsal, tennis, or pickleball? Then fill out DPR’s survey on sport courts to shape how DPR utilizes its courts for our community.

DC Alert: Jury Duty Phone Scam

MPD is warning the public about a phone scam where scammers impersonate MPD officers on the phone and attempt to extort people by claiming an arrest warrant has been issued against them for not appearing at a jury duty summons. The scammer then asks for money to remove the warrant. Please remember that MPD will never solicit anyone for money, bank information, or social security numbers. Learn more from MPD’s scam alert.

Saturday Road Closures for Half-Marathon

Beware, neighbors: there will major road closures in Northwest DC this Saturday, March 16 (primarily from 6am-12pm) due to the Rock and Roll Half-Marathon. While the closures are south of Ward 4, they will likely impact your travel if you choose to venture south on Saturday. Check out the full route map and MPD’s traffic and parking advisory for additional details.

Neighborhood Events

Invasive Plant Removal at Shepherd Field

On Saturday, March 16 from 9am-11am the Shepherd Park Weed Warriors will host host an invasive plant removal at Shepherd field (behind Shepherd Elementary) to continue building a walking trail and removing invasive plants on the hillside. They will have extra tools to spare, but bring your own gloves if you have them.

4B05 Manor Park Community Cleanup

On Saturday, March 16 from 9am-11am 4B05 Commissioner Kevin Gilligan will lead a community cleanup starting from 8th & Peabody NW and covering nearby blocks.  Bags, gloves, grabbers, and snacks will all be provided, and volunteer hours can also be approved.

Hand Dancing Event at Lamond Rec Center 

On Saturday, March 16 from 12pm-5pm DPR will host Shake Your Shamrocks, a cabaret-style event with hand dancing at Lamond Rec Center (20 Tuckerman Street NE). Bring your own food for your table and come socialize with other dancers.

Community Peace Dinner in 16th Street Heights

On Saturday, March 16 from 5pm-7:30pm several organizations are coming together to hold a community peace dinner for neighbors in Sixteenth Street Heights at AKA Xi Omega Center (4411 14th St NW). This is an open event for neighbors to meet, connect, and enjoy a warm meal together with free groceries, kids activities, and resources from community organizations. Our office will also be tabling at the dinner. The event is co-hosted by Simpson-Hamline UMC, AKA Xi Omega Chapter, the 16th Street Neighborhood Association, and Uptown Main Street.

Grant Circle Weeding This Sunday 

On Sunday, March 17 from 2pm-3:30pm join Petworth Blooms to clear weeds at Grant Circle and help showcase the daffodils and quince in full bloom. No gardening experience necessary! 

Senior Spa Day at Riggs-LaSalle Rec Center

On Wednesday, March 20 from 10am-3pm DPR will host a Senior Spa Day at Riggs LaSalle Rec Center (501 Riggs Rd NE). Senior Spa Day provides free pampering services such as haircuts, manicures, entertainment, and access to community resources.

Know Your Rights Workshop for DC Youth at Emery

On Thursday, March 21 from 6pm-8pm the ACLU-DC is partnering with local DC high schools to host a Know Your Rights Workshop at Emery Heights Community Center (5801 Georgia Ave NW). Come learn how to protect your legal rights. Free Caribbean food and refreshments will be provided, and the event will focused on DC youth.

Mark Your Calendar: Healthy Homes Fair

On Saturday, April 6 from 1pm-5pm there will a major Healthy Homes Fair at Stadium Armory for DC residents interested in electrifying their homes! Come learn about exciting state-of-the-art technologies like heat pumps, induction, battery storage, EV chargers, and more.

For more local events, check out DPR, DC Public Library, and NPS.

Ward 4 in the News

The Atlantic: DC’s Crime Problem Is a Democracy Problem

WTOP: DDOT to Offer Low-Income DC Residents Up to $2,000 to Buy an E-Bike

Washington Informer: TOPA Under Siege, Tenant Advocates Say

Washington Post: DC Gets Funds to Expand ‘Warmline,’ a Social Services Hotline

Channel 7: Former Head of DC’s 911 Call Center Alleges Fraud, Abuse in Lawsuit

Washington Post: While Bused Migrants Overwhelm Other Cities, DC Reduces Services

National Park Service: NPS and Rock Creek Conservancy Secure $1 Million from the Inflation Reduction Act to Promote Regeneration of Rock Creek Parks’ Forests

Axios: DC’s “She-conomy” Is Booming (featuring Fia’s Fabulous Finds)

WTOP: DC Among Top Ranked in Nation for Cities Seeing Surge in Women Business Owners (featuring Ward 4’s Lulabelle’s Sweet Shop and Flowers by Alexes)

DGS: Updates and Photos from the Dorothy Height Elementary Modernization

Washington Post: Virginia Lawmakers Nix Arena Plan, Leaving Youngkin Few Options

DC FPI: Even with Funding Increases, Schools Face Constrained Budgets Next Year

DDOT: Temporary Lane Closures on Oregon & Military NW through April 12, 2024

Washington Informer: DC Unveils Ambitious Plan to Divert 80% of Solid Waste

Petworth News: Kennedy Street Community Is Hopeful for Proposed Library

Ward 4 Dispatch: Secure DC, School Boundaries, and Local Business Spotlight!

Special thank you to the Ward 4 Mini Commission on Aging for hosting me this week, and for your great ideas and dialogue. For those who do not know, the Ward 4 Mini Commission on Aging plays an incredibly important role in elevating the needs of senior citizens in our community and advocating for positive change. I’m looking forward to working with you to support our seniors and make our community stronger!

I also had the honor of attending the Inauguration of Dr. Maurice D. Edington as the 10th President of the University of the District of Columbia (UDC). President Edington brings tremendous experience as an educator, a bold vision, and a deep commitment to UDC’s proud history as an HBCU and as the District’s only public university. I was grateful to see Ward 4’s own Annie Whatley at the Inauguration, who serves as Assistant Vice President for External Relations at UDC.

Have a nice weekend and enjoy the sunshine, Ward 4!

Yours in Community,