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

Public Spaces

Neighborhood concrete problems get fixed

The Republic of the Congo has begun removing its unauthorized paving at the insistence of DDOT and the State Department, and DDOT restored a pedestrian walkway on Irving Street after residents complained. Let's thank our public officials for getting these small but important neighborhood issues fixed.

Over at 16th and Corcoran, the Congo had a deadline of December 17, Saturday, to de-pave the front yard of the Toutorsky Mansion they made their embassy earlier this year. On that day, Dupont Conservancy member Rich Busch took the below right photo of crews removing the concrete.

Left: Front yard after paving. Right: Crews removing paving. Photos by Rick Busch.

DDOT sent the Congo and the State Department a letter a month ago, finding that the paving violated DC regulations. That was the basis for the State Department's follow-up letter telling the Congo to take the paving out.

Another successful fix comes from Mount Pleasant, where ANC commissioner Jack McKay alerted us recently to a change that had destroyed the pedestrian walkway along Irving Street. This section, where Irving climbs from Adams Mill Road along the edge of Rock Creek up into the neighborhood, has high-speed traffic and no sidewalk.

McKay wrote,

...that bit of road is also a vital pedestrian link between a bus stop and the Harvard Towers, a 193-unit DCHA structure housing mostly the aged and the disabled. Being aged and/or disabled, the residents mostly take the bus, and for years walked in the street, into oncoming traffic, to reach this bus stop.

But in 2006 the Mount Pleasant ANC persuaded DDOT to build a temporary barrier of jersey wall, creating a safe pedestrian passageway to that bus stop. (The ANC also purchased a bench for that bus stop, which DDOT installed so that those folks would no longer have to sit on an uncomfortable guard rail while awaiting the bus.)

Initially there was a series of posts in the street to guide drivers away from that jersey barrier and into the traffic lane. The posts gradually vanished, ampu­tated by careless drivers. That left the jersey wall barrier exposed in the street, with only the post mounting hump remaining to direct cars away from it.

Recently, the jersey barrier was moved over, creating a less crash-prone arrangement for the speeding cars but blocking the path for pedestrians.

Left: Blocked pedestrian walkway. Right: Walkway restored. Photos by Jack McKay.

Was this a misguided DDOT crew thinking they were making the road "safer"? We don't know, but after being alerted to the situation, DDOT restored the jersey barriers to their correct spots and added one of the sand-filled crash barrels.

This stretch of road still feels like a highway, and crash barrels are more usually seen on high-speed highways than local streets, but making the roadways in and around Rock Creek Park more hospitable to all modes is a longer-term issue that will involve additional significant changes from both DDOT and the National Park Service. Meanwhile, it's great that residents can at least walk safely to their bus stop.

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. 


Add a comment »

Kudos to Congo for actually starting the work more or less on time rather than pulling a diplomatic immunity claim.

by ah on Dec 19, 2011 12:49 pm • linkreport


A thousand small improvements add up. And we all learned something in the process -- the streets in DC are far wider than we ever knew.

by charlie on Dec 19, 2011 12:53 pm • linkreport

Hooray! I think it would be a good idea for ANC 2B, the Dupont Circle Citizens Association, and the Dupont Conservancy to send the Congolese Embassy a thank you for doing the right thing.

by Adam L on Dec 19, 2011 12:59 pm • linkreport

But Joel ( ) assured us that this would NEVER happen.

by Total on Dec 19, 2011 1:02 pm • linkreport

I have been impressed with the various Dupont neighborhood group efforts recently. I have no idea who is in them, but I am impressed.

by Jazzy on Dec 19, 2011 1:22 pm • linkreport

Good to know that, contra @Lance, our Federal government is not powerless in the face of this Congolese insult!

Hopefully we will not feel the brunt of a massive retaliation against our citizens abroad by the perfidious Congolese Menace...

by oboe on Dec 19, 2011 1:59 pm • linkreport

Frankly, it was a diplomatic slap in the face for the Congolese to think they can come into the Capitol of the Free World and expropriate US soil for their own benefit. Did they think we were going to kow-tow to a blatant land-grab of our soil by a dictator, no less? Rather than a thank-you note, we should be demanding an apology.

by Falls Church on Dec 19, 2011 2:22 pm • linkreport

Will they also be replacing the 60 ft mature trees they removed?

by Arborist on Dec 19, 2011 2:51 pm • linkreport

Actually, it's the Dupont Circle Conservancy and the Dupont Circle Citizens Association you have to thank for getting this to happen. Were it not for the Conservancy bringing this to State's attention and being in constant contact about it, and then the DCCA organizing a street protest in front of the 'Embassy of Concrete', its doubtful State and DDOT would have felt the heat or the need to act. So yes David, your neighbors and friends that you in other situations like to call 'antis' deserve the credit here for having been ... Shall we say 'anti' someone not,playing by the rules. I guess its a good thing you liked the rules time ...

by Lance on Dec 19, 2011 6:53 pm • linkreport

@ Jazzy, have been impressed with the various Dupont neighborhood group efforts recently. I have no idea who is in them, but I am impressed.


by Lance on Dec 19, 2011 6:58 pm • linkreport


by Lance on Dec 19, 2011 6:58 pm

Lance, what was your role in this? I assume you had one since you seem to be taking some credit for it. What was the organization you had a role in? Can you provide specifics? I know what you wrote above. Are those the organizations you are involved in? In what capacity?

by Jazzy on Dec 20, 2011 7:42 am • linkreport


I'm afraid @Lance is just grabbing his baton, donning his fancy hat and jumping in front of a parade already in progress.

As he put it so eloquently a few weeks ago, State had no leverage against the Congolese whatsoever, and we were entirely at the mercy of their whimsical impulses:

while State can do all that stuff they say in the letter, the Congo can just as easily retaliate on our embassy over there ... and without the niceties of the type of legalistic procedures we had to go through to get that letter written by State ... and the Congo knows this.
Fortunately, they were feeling benevolent towards us for whatever their cryptic reasons, and the toothless bleatings of our own government (let alone community groups) merely alerted them to community sentiment.

I am a little disappointed that Lance and others would have been so callous about American interests abroad and the safety of our "Boys in the Field" that he would have pressed the issue, though. Such a risky course of action might just as likely turned the Congolese against our cause as propitiated them, and put American servicemen and diplomatic staff at grave risk to boot.

by oboe on Dec 20, 2011 10:05 am • linkreport

@Jazzy, I'm an officer of the Conservancy ... and being the officer with experience in these matters from various neighborhood involvements in Dupont and in Sheridan-Kalorama, I advised our VP who testified earlier in the year on the application, and of course I participated in formulating our position as well as our communications with State, as well as ANC Commissioner Jack Jacobson who I advised prior to his testimony and who I should have also mentioned as a person to thank for this unexpected great success. And I say unexpected because in my 15 years involvement I cannot think of another case where the State so unequivocally acted to protect our neighborhood interests AND the embassy complied on schedule. All our other actions have resulted in either slow action, compromise, both, or ... usually ... no results.

I guess if us antis persevere long enough we gotta win one ...

by Lance on Dec 20, 2011 2:06 pm • linkreport

Thanks for letting me know.

by Jazzy on Dec 20, 2011 6:35 pm • linkreport

@Jazzy, Do we know each other by any chance? Ie Is your real name something other than Jazzy?

by Lance on Dec 21, 2011 2:18 pm • linkreport

I guess if us antis persevere long enough we gotta win one ...

A stopped clock is right twice a day.

by Geoffrey Hatchard on Jan 3, 2012 5:04 pm • linkreport

Add a Comment

Name: (will be displayed on the comments page)

Email: (must be your real address, but will be kept private)

URL: (optional, will be displayed)

You can use some HTML, like <blockquote>quoting another comment</blockquote>, <i>italics</i>, and <a href="http://url_here">hyperlinks</a>. More here.

Your comment:

By submitting a comment, you agree to abide by our comment policy.
Notify me of followup comments via email. (You can also subscribe without commenting.)
Save my name and email address on this computer so I don't have to enter it next time, and so I don't have to answer the anti-spam map challenge question in the future.


Support Us