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After an associate called my attention to your recent article about the lack of redevelopment along a section of Florida Avenue NW (“The Florida Mile,” 8/31), I have come to realize something: You wield your writer’s pen with the same recklessness as a kid who just found his dad’s hidden handgun. In either situation, there is usually not a good outcome. I also realize that objectivity, at best, seems to be a secondary priority when you are investigating a story. Finally, I know why people can be so guarded when speaking with representatives of your newspaper. They never know which of their actual words will be omitted or embellished until the story is printed.
You printed a biased quote that stated that my organization has, for a year and a half, held ownership of a cluster of eight properties located where Florida and New Jersey Avenues converge, while doing “nothing” with them. Your article further states that we have not cleaned or secured the properties. Allow me to make a distinction for you: First of all, several times we hired crewscosting us thousandsto clean and secure each interior and clean each exterior. When individuals subsequently re-entered unlawfully (or littered the grounds), we again hired crews to secure and/or clean up. Sometimes, we even cleaned the adjacent neighbors’ properties. Many times we have been frustrated to find that other, unethical contractors have dumped their construction debris on our cleaned property, instead of taking it to a legal dumping site. We also have to pay for such cleanups.
Second, let me address your point regarding the fact that we have completed no renovations in this cluster for a year and a half. We decided to sell the properties to a developer that would, as a condition of the transaction, commit to begin renovation immediately after settlement. So our being able to trigger redevelopment of that cluster within a year and a half of our involvement is a vast improvement over previous owners, who held it for several decades with absolutely no redevelopment. Instead of the negative press, your reporter, Felix Gillette, could have investigated a little deeper to realize that an extremely small startup like ours has done more to get the revitalization ball rolling in this short period than anyone else has in decades. Notice that all of this is happening while, at the same time, we are developing further east on Florida Avenue. Now several other small developers have begun to become active in the corridor, as a direct result of our organization’s willingness to initiate movement in an area that everyone else neglected until now. My organization has deliberately made the effort to communicate with these other small developers in order to informally coordinate our common goal of helping each other speed up revitalization. We are the development catalyst, not the problem.
I guess the City National Inquireroops! I mean the Washington City Paperis not known for reporting objective or positive stories that can actually help improve the community. To prove my point, one only needs to review your paper’s archive of cover stories. Come on, City Paper (and you, Mr. Gillette). Be a better corporate citizen. As a follow-up story, I invite you to sit down (this time face to face) with a group of us small developers to learn of the integrity with which we do our collective part in bringing this city forward to better days.
Mr. Gillette, we may not be using what you judge the best methods. However, there is one truth even you can’t deny. Though it is a tough, and perhaps flawed, process, we are in the game, instead of being a complaining or passive spectator. I believe that the power of your writer’s pen, Mr. Gillette, would be better utilized by highlighting what is improving along your “Florida Mile,” as opposed to just being another misinformed naysayer.
Fathi and Associates