Ivy City Is Dying While the Government Is Denying

Thursday August 16, 2012

Barnes Sues the District of Columbia

People die early in Ivy City, earlier than any other place in Washington, D.C. Ivy City is a low income, poorly educated, made up of mostly African American residents in Northeast Washington, D.C. Over the years, the District of Columbia Government has promised this depressed Community training, jobs, education, recreation, opportunity, hope, a way up, a way out. As a consequence, many have stayed, some have returned and others have come.

Union Station Protest flier
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Despite these promises made on countless occasions, dating back more than 30 years, the District Government has now, suddenly, without warning or notice, decided to place a Bus Depot in Ivy City.

Instead of bringing training, jobs, education, opportunity and hope to the residents of Ivy City, the Mayor on 25 January 2012, less than three months following the publication of a Report with more promises, issued Executive Order 2012-14; to park and house commuter buses in the heart of Ivy City and bring a bus depot, poor air quality, noise and additional traffic --- for at least five to ten years --- and nothing more. Instead of recreation, social services, needed health care and outlets for the community, the District of Columbia Government recently purchased an additional 6.2 acres of Ivy City land, at a cost of $17 million, more than three times its value, according to experts; land to pile more sand and salt trucks and snow plows into the Ivy City neighborhood. If ever there was a screaming case of environmental injustice, this is it.

I have filed a lawsuit in an attempt to halt the construction of the Bus Depot. The Complaint, Memorandum in Support of Injunctive Relief and Supplemental Memorandum can be found by clicking on the below links:

In its Opposition, the District of Columbia Government refers to the Complaint of Plaintiff as, "...nothing more than speculative assertions of future harm and generalized grievances." In other words, that poor people die and get sick at higher rates in Ivy City than in any other place in Washington, D.C. is of no consequence, because they are just poor people. Severe respiratory problems; residents forced to breath with the help of mechanical devices; lower life expectancy --- "speculative assertions of future harm" --- or seeking to "protect a concrete interest of their own" from a "demonstrable increase in the threat of death or serious illness"? That's life in Ivy City now because of the acts and omissions of the District Government. And, who will buy, at any price, one of the 58 new homes or any home in Ivy City for that matter, with a "bus depot" or "bus parking lot" (call it what you will) in the heart of the neighborhood --- "generalized grievances" or "concrete injury to their particularized grievance"? Plaintiffs would assert, without fear of successful contradiction that no real estate expert would regard such an eyesore and health and safety risk as an enhancement to the community. These Defendants seem to suggest that there must be Erin Brockovich-type evidence before an emergency can be declared; that the bodies must be in the morgue, the fish must be dead on the shore, the birds must fall from the sky. That is not the standard. These Plaintiffs face a concrete risk of harm. That the District Government for years allowed the LOVE Nightclub to valet park hundreds of its patrons at $30 and more per vehicle on the subject lot, many times each week, without the payment of any fees to the District, is of no consequence to the residents of Ivy City who have suffered under the weight of those vehicles. Countless school buses, on two sides of a street, mind boggling numbers of salt and sand trucks and snow plows, two and a quarter ton trucks lining the street, buses in other parts of the community, "hyperbolic rhetoric."

Hyperbolic rhetoric is the claim by the District Government that it "consulted" with the community and evidences that claim with a sign-in sheet that consists of a mere eleven names, half of whom are non-residents of Ivy City, and half of those are District Government officials. Plaintiffs would proffer that the few residents at that one meeting, the one and only meeting, before the Crummell School "...emerge[d] as the best interim-use parking option," only learned of the meeting the day before and attended to assert their opposition. And those residents did not learn of the meeting from the District Government. They learned of the meeting quite by accident. Hyperbolic rhetoric is the claim by the District Government that there is no other space in Washington, D.C., except Ivy City, to house and park the 65 buses at issue here. Hyperbolic rhetoric is that this is a short-term solution when the very document it annexes as an Exhibit, the License Agreement, will allow the buses to be housed and parked in Ivy City for up to ten years, likely more.

Yet perhaps most disturbing of all is the District Government's use of hyperbolic rhetoric to maintain that it should be able to avoid the Rule of Law when it comes to notice, an opportunity to be heard, due process, environmental analyses and responsibility for misleading the public.

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