Pages tagged "congress heights"
Turning the Light of Truth: #RentersDayofAction at Congress Heights
On Thursday, September 22nd, ONE DC, Justice First, tenants of Congress Heights, Brookland Manor, Museum Square, and our members and supporters rallied in solidarity with renters in DC and nationwide for the Renters Day of Action. Across the country, in more than 50 cities, renters rose up in powerful demonstrations of the power of everyday people standing up for racial, economic & social justice. Renters are making four major demands:
In DC, residents living at a Congress Heights property are making another demand. Department of Housing and Community Development must take control of 3200 13th Street SE from the current owners to prevent known slum landlords and developers from gaining site control to move forward with their development plan in which they seek to displace Congress Heights tenants. Affected residents at Congress Heights and the larger neighborhood must be given priority as to determining alternative plans to create the affordable housing originally intended for the site in a manner that is beneficial to and determined by the community. Additionally, DHCD must take action to recuperate the missing $1 million from the owners of 3200, and commit to reinvesting it back into the development of 3200 to create much needed income-based affordable housing on the property as was originally intended.
Workers with Project Retail also shared their experience with displacement in DC & request support for their petition for fair access to public transportation.
Photo Credit: O. Michael Leslie
March Against Slumlords and WIN for Affordable Housing in Congress Heights
By Clara Lincoln
Saturday, July 23 at 11am with the temperature pushing 100 degrees, over 40 people gathered around the Cleveland Park metro station to demand an end to the slumlord control of a Congress Heights property.
March Against Slumlords protest
Read more about the situation from Justice First here.
The protest began as people gathered at the Cleveland Park metro station, crowding into the shade of trees. Eugene Puryear of Justice First and Stop Police Terror Project DC took the mic and riled up the crowd, many of whom held signs about gentrification and slumlords. At least 5 people in the crowd were tenants either from Congress Heights or other buildings organizing to exercise their Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA) rights in order to buy their building.
After Eugene's explanation of where we were going and why, we started our uphill, sticky march to Geoff Griffis' house. Griffis is the developer who partnered with Sanford Capital, a slumlord responsible for letting building conditions deteriorate to the point that there are roaches & rats, flooded basements, and trash sitting for months waiting to be picked up. Justice First retrieved the address through online research on Griffis' donations to Mayor Bowser's 2014 mayoral campaign -- a strategic move on Griffis' part. Griffis is also involved in the wharf development, which received $95 million worth of waterfront property from the city for only $1.00.
Conditions at Congress Heights building
Griffis and Sanford Capital are letting the building deteriorate to try to force the tenants to move out before they can exercise their right to buy the building. But the tenants will not back down. When we arrived at Griffis' house, three tenants from Congress Heights took the mic to talk about their experiences. They expressed how inspired they were that so many people showed up on such a hot day. One said, "We've been fighting for three years. But what we want Griffis to know is you've got rid of some, but you're not getting rid of us," referring to people who have chosen to move away and stop fighting. The President and VP of the tenant association both gave inspiring speeches as people cheered and clapped. We assumed the house was empty since we saw no signs of life, but their words were as much for the crowd as for Griffis' neighbors.
After about 20 minutes of chants and testimonies, the slumlord appeared. As Schyla Pondexter-Moore from Empower DC held the mic, Griffis stepped out of his house with a box of cold water bottles. Schyla, the tenants and the crowd all turned around, rushed to the fence, and booed. Schyla said into the mic that he was no better than a slave master for the way he's treated the tenants. One tenant yelled, "We don't want your water, we want a change of heart!" Griffis opened the gate, set the box on the ground, closed the gate, gave a curt wave, and walked back inside. Check out our twitter feed to see a video of the end of the encounter. Needless to say, no one drank the water. We had brought enough of our own.
We marched and chanted back down the hill towards Connecticut Avenue. We were so fired up that we walked straight into the intersection and blocked Connecticut Avenue for a few minutes, telling passersby who Griffis was and why we were marching. Police redirected traffic even though we had no permit to block the intersection-- a testament, in my opinion, to DC police's strategy of causing as little noise as possible during protests to keep media quiet.
The protest displayed layers of solidarity. Community members and organizers came out to support the Congress Heights tenants. Luchadorxs in other buildings trying to exercise their TOPA rights showed up for a similar fight across the river. Many individuals and organizations brought water and ice to pass out. And Griffis' neighbors even stopped to listen to what we had to say. It revitalized and inspired the tenants and organizers, educated a crowd and some Cleveland Park neighbors, and left people with a follow-up action step.
Griffis and Sanford Capital want access to even more land near the Congress Heights metro station on which to build luxury apartments. As soon as Justice First found out that the WMATA board was planning to vote Thursday (today!) on whether or not to give even more land to Sanford Capital, they did what they do best-- they organized. At the march this past Saturday, they handed out information sheets like the one below urging the crowds to contact Councilmember Jack Evans, urging him to table the vote. They spread the call to action on social media as well.
Then, Thursday morning, they learned they had won. Many ONE DC members who had emailed Evans got responses informing them of WMATA's decision. Here is the text from an email Evans sent to a ONE DC intern:
"Thank you very much for taking the time to share your thoughts on this important issue. Upon further review of the Congress Heights sale agreement item, I agree that postponing the vote is the most prudent option at this time. I am happy to report that the WMATA Board also agree and the item has been tabled until a later meeting."
Justice First, Congress Heights tenants, and all those who contacted Evans made this happen. Thank you to our members who called, emailed, & tweeted. This is a WIN that proves the power of collective organizing and solidarity.
But the fight isn't over. The vote will come before the board again. And the Congress Heights tenants are still living in slum conditions. Stay involved in the fight for equitable housing by following Justice First on Facebook. #DefendAffordableHousing #SaveCongressHeights
Fueled by reflections from the ONE DC Freedom School, Congress Heights residents testify at Zoning Commission Hearing
By Caroline Hennessey
On January 22, residents of Congress Heights fought back against development aimed to line the pockets of one of the largest slumlords in the District. The development project seeks to displace families with the intention of capitalizing on their conveniently locates homes near the metro station, demolish 5 rent-controlled buildings, and eliminate an affordability requirement intended to keep eleven units accessible to low-income families. One after another residents testified at a hearing before the Zoning Commission to the deplorable conditions they have been continuously subjected to, and expressed their sentiment that “these slumlord do not deserve to be granted this new property”. Alternative forms of inclusive development were put forth as well: “I would like to see a housing co-op for our buildings” stated one resident. Ultimately, the project was not approved for the time being due to the articulately expressed concerns and ideas of residents, community members, and organizers of ONE DC.
The strength that tenants displayed at the hearing and their ability to stand up and speak the truth regarding the devastating realities of the current development model for poor black DC residents was due in no small part to a change in perspective after becoming involved with ONE DC. In December, a group of residents from Congress Heights attended a Freedom School organized by ONE DC that shaped the conversation by exposing many of those who would be affected and afflicted by the unaffordable, non-inclusive proposed development to other alternatives. Residents discussed the root causes of the hardships of displacement and the hostile living environments they have endured for years, and compared and contrasted the status-quo of capitalist, profit-driven development and “investment” with collective models based on principles of a solidarity economy. ONE DC worked with residents to expose them to the deep-seeded imbalance of power that perpetuates development beneficial only to those most privileged in our society. Together they watched videos and discussed other examples of instances where oppressed people have come together to take back power by realizing their own alternative collective visions of labor, housing, and food cooperatives. These ideas and visions were then applied to the specific situation facing residents of Congress Heights today. Some weeks later, these same residents took what they had learned through this discussion to the floor of the Zoning Commission in the first step of what will likely be a long fight for their housing.
The Freedom School is intended to grow and expand to include, unite, and empower residents throughout Ward 8 and DC to take back the city that is theirs. To this end ONE DC has and continues to work tirelessly to connect with residents and educate them in the fight for a fair and inclusive Washington DC.