The Washington, DC region is great >> and it can be greater.


Breakfast links: The numbers show the change

Photo by Photocapy on Flickr.
Segregation on the rise, in PG: Every jurisdiction in the region is becoming more diverse, except Prince George's County, which has more almost all-black neighborhoods (many quite affluent). Some say living with fellow African-Americans is just what many people want. (Post)

Metro complaints down, bus complaints up: Complaints coming in to WMATA have declined 10%. The only category to increase was bus complaints. Are buses getting worse, or do new bus riders just report problems more? (Examiner)

Maryland drivers get road, pay: The Intercounty Connector will open just before Thanksgiving all the way to I-95. (Post) ... Meanwhile, tolls will increase on all Maryland toll facilities around the state, to pay the cost. (Examiner)

Sulaimon case has less evidence, or more: A Congressional committee can't substantiate allegations in the Sulaimon Brown scandal. (Post) ... But an anonymous Examiner source says prosecutors have found a document that may be incriminating.

DC has 2 of worst 10 public spaces: A list of 10 "failed plazas and squares" includes both the plaza outside HUD and the National Mall. The only US plaza that made the best 10 list is in Portland. (Atlantic Cities)

Vacant property abounds in East Harlem: Some property owners in East Harlem keep whole buildings empty in hopes they can get far more money in the future. But that means less housing and less vibrant blocks in the meantime. (NY Times)

And...: Occupy DC realizes that stealing the DC flag was symbolically stupid, given DC's lack of voting rights. (DCist) ... Clarendon Court House CaBi commences construction. (Twitter) ... And now, no more And Now, Anacostia.

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David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. 


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The CaBi station is actually in Courthouse (across the street from the Metro station), not Clarendon.

by Jacques on Oct 31, 2011 8:58 am • linkreport

If the Mall is allowed to qualify as a "plaza" for that list of the worst public spaces, then Central Park's Great Lawn should qualify as one of the best.

Also, Dupont Circle is one of the nicest small urban parks I can think of. (For all of the Park Service's faults in DC, they can take credit for this one. Dupont Circle is great.)

We've also got some new plazas/parks opening that have potential for being great. I think we can already call the plaza around the fountain in Columbia Heights a huge success, and Veterans Plaza in downtown Silver Spring has added some much-needed open space to that neighborhood.

Canal Park has a whole lot of potential, and I have high hopes that the Yards Park will be better utilized once the area around it fills in, and the walkway to the stadium is completed.

That said, the author evidently holds plazas in high reverence. Given the many, many, many Corbusier-inspired plazas that have been profoundly unsuccessful as public places, maybe we should be focusing our attention on other forms of outdoor urban architecture and landscaping? Boston's City Hall Plaza is possibly the worst use I could think of for that space.

by andrew on Oct 31, 2011 10:03 am • linkreport

Every jurisdiction in the region is becoming more diverse, except Prince George's County, which has more almost all-black neighborhoods (many quite affluent). Some say living with fellow African-Americans is just what many people want.

Prince George's has historically had a different socioeconomic profile than the rest of the area. PG was majority white until about 1985/1990, and much of the white population there was working class - a lot lower income than the region as a whole. And a lot of the movmenet into PG was wealthier blacks that often had higher incomes than the whites they replaced.

The white population that is still in PG are those that didn't choose to depart the county or to some degree, are still in parts of PG that are more historically white (Bowie, for example). The string of streetcar suburbs going up RI Ave and Baltimore Avenue - Mt Rainier, Brentwood/N. Brentwood, Hyattsville, Riverdale Park, College Park, University Park, Berwyn Heights,and Beltsville, and Greenbelt are also much integrated and mixed than the county as a whole).

What PGcounty doesn't have is large scale immigration (other than to NW PG county), and with the exception of slow gentrification in the aforementioned streetcar suburb corridor, the movement of upper middle class whites into that snakk area is outpaced by black movement into the county and general birth rates. So this is really one of the major reasons that the county isn't getting more diverse (which is the main reason that Montgomery and Fairfax are getting more mixed - the huge amount of immigration into the area)

by BP on Oct 31, 2011 10:28 am • linkreport

I'm surprised the HUD Plaza made it on the list. Not so much that I think it's design is good (it's not), but more that it's not that big of a deal. The area doesn't see that much foot traffic and it's a fairly small plaza to begin with. I was also surprised the Monumental Axis in Brasilia didn't make the list, which is like the Mall, just wider and less pedestrian friendly.

by Steven Yates on Oct 31, 2011 10:31 am • linkreport

The National Mall has so much potential, but currently it's a truly awful public space. What should be the crown jewel of our nation's capital is an dismal expanse of browning grass and linear gravel paths that don't really connect to anything.

Both poor design and lack of funding for upkeep are to blame. Hopefully the redesign contest will produce exciting new ideas to bring the National Mall into the 21st century and transform it into a great public space, although the scope of the contest does seem a bit limited.

Which brings me to my idea for the next GGW contest: Redesign the National Mall!

by Rebecca on Oct 31, 2011 10:39 am • linkreport

@Steven Yates

The Monumental Axis in Brasilia is on the list of bad plazas. It's just called the Empire State Plaza.

by Ray on Oct 31, 2011 10:41 am • linkreport

I'll be the first to agree that the National Mall can be vastly improved. But, to say that it a "failed" or "truly awful" public space, is hyperbole. The Mall has 30 million visitors each year and hosts over 3000 permitted events annually. As Stephen Colbert would say: the market has spoken!

by Falls Church on Oct 31, 2011 10:59 am • linkreport

The article on "segregation" is kind of mushy. Early on, it notes that the number of neighborhoods that were 85% one race went from 25 to 27 percent. "Though the increase is small, any uptick is startling in comparison with everywhere else in the region."

But then it spends most of the article talking about people moving to mostly-black neighborhoods when the trend seems more to be lack of "desegregation".

The choice of "neighborhood" as census tract also affects things. In Bowie, for example, the city as a whole is "integrated" -- neither majority black nor majority white, despite the small number of residents of other races. But a lot of the newer developments are mostly black, and a lot of the older ones are mostly white. Some of that has more to do with when they were built and what demographic was moving into the county at that time.

In particular, my development of 24 houses, built in the mid-1990s, is 75-80% black. But at the census tract level, we're 43.4% white and 43.4% black. So when the development was built, the mostly-black homeowners were perfectly happy moving into a mostly-white neighborhood. But it made more sense to them to buy bigger, nicer houses than the adjacent Levitt ones. (As it did to us, a mostly-white family, earlier this year.)

by Jon on Oct 31, 2011 11:01 am • linkreport

+1 falls church.

The mall always has actiity on it. It's prolix urbaists who decry it; in reality the Mall is so big and diverse that you can't easily label it. I'd reckon you could take every other plaza mentioned in that piece and put it in the mall -- and you'd have space left over for a couple small states.

by charlie on Oct 31, 2011 11:12 am • linkreport

I'm not surprised about the bus complaints. I wonder if it has to do with the bored-looking driver in an otherwise empty MetroAccess van parked in the middle of RFK's north parking lots Sunday afternoon.

by Joe on Oct 31, 2011 11:33 am • linkreport

@BP... you know what time it is with regards to PG County. PG County was where working class whites lived up until even mid 80s... Paris Is Burning is from PG County. And the white folks were largely GENTRIFIED out of the county by black folks, but nobody talks about that because it goes against the grain of the area liberal group think. Our area (errrea) is great, but people think in small terms. There are still parts of Howard County and Anne-A-Run-Down County where poor whites and blacks live but the liberals don't like them.

by FromDaErrea&Errrything on Oct 31, 2011 12:22 pm • linkreport

Two unrelated comments:

1. @Steven Yates: The HUD Plaza was designed by Martha Schwartz, so it got a lot of attention in the landscape design world.


2. The use of the word 'segregation' in the Post articles bothers me. The word has a lot of baggage - it implies or alludes to the intentional enforced separation of races, based on legal restrictions and covenants, especially in context of neghborhoods and residential patterns. To use it to describe benign, voluntary associations and patterns of residence may be correct in the strict definition of the word, but it leads one to believe that it is the result of intentional ulterior motives and negative forces. No doubt some of the concentrations we see today and in recent census data reflect the legal restrictions of the past, and that would be a reasonable topic of discussion. However, to refer to 'increasing segregation' when one is talking about voluntary clustering and decreasing diversity, especially in an region with a history of legal and enforced segregation, I think inaccurately distorts the conversation.

by TwoPoints on Oct 31, 2011 12:52 pm • linkreport

L'Enfant Plaza doesn't get a nod?

by Squalish on Oct 31, 2011 1:03 pm • linkreport

The WPost article on "segregation" is just as silly and typical as its other "race-related" articles. Most are so poorly written and logically moribound that it should have made it to the recycle bin.

Basically, black folk "choose" to live among other black folk because we like the "experience" of living amongst our own.

Now imagine if the same article was written about some largely white county. Chances are whites would have been painted as borderline racists "afraid" of change.

This is another in a long line of reasons why the WPost has lost most of its credibility outside the political establishements. They just can't be taken seriously...especially with crap like this.

by HogWash on Oct 31, 2011 1:11 pm • linkreport

For those interested in the white working class history of Prince George's, there was a great book written in the 1960s called Hard Living on Clay Street: Portraits of Blue Collar Families that's used in a lot of sociology classes - the author lived with a number of working class white families in Prince George's County. It was written about Mount Rainier in the 1960s (the house there still exists), and gives a really interesting insight into working class white PG, especially in a time where racial transition was happening from DC.

by BP on Oct 31, 2011 1:59 pm • linkreport

@FromDaErrea&Errrything, what does "Paris Is Burning is from PG County" mean?

I agree with others that the term segregation is inappropriate in this context. No one is exiling these folks to Prince George's.

by MDE on Oct 31, 2011 2:00 pm • linkreport

I believe the term "segregation" was a deliberate stylistic choice by the Post to highlight the fact that the African-Americans profiled in the article no longer believe in intergration, which was one of the basic tenants of the civil rights movement.

by Jumpin Jack Flash Player on Oct 31, 2011 2:10 pm • linkreport

The Post has had a tin ear about race for decades. It's one reason they more or less stopped doing serious journalism about DC govt during the Barry's second reign. They really couldn't understand that they would always be viewed as a white establishment paper, no matter what they wrote. It's analogous to their problems with the Right, except their strategy there has been shameless pandering. I think their "race" problem is also a reflection of the Post's ludicrous grasp of anything local--their scribblers obviously tend not to be from here or even educated in the area.

PG was not "gentrified" by African-Americans Although most of the new housing built over the last 20 years has been targeted to upper middle income Blacks, there are plenty of areas that have become poorer, esp. where there were large concentrations of apartments. There are large chunks of PG that are now home to immigrants or their children--the Langley Park, Takoma Park (beyond the village) and Adelphi areas have been like this since the 90s. Riverdale is very much this way, along with the area near Greenbelt Metro.

by Rich on Oct 31, 2011 9:43 pm • linkreport

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