Last summer, the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development began demolition work to make way for the controversial Anacostia Northern Gateway Project. Proponents say the 61,000-square-foot retail and office building will bring much-needed commercial activity to its impoverished neighborhood. But for Le Eckles, it has already brought headaches. In 1993, Eckles received notice to vacate her thrift store to make way for the project on the mostly boarded-up 1200 block of Good Hope Road SE. Described by neighbors as eccentric and territorial, Eckles continued to consider herself the “caretaker of the property.” Now D.C. is taking her to court. “To call me a squatter is the lowest kind of slur,” Eckles says. By court order, Eckles must leave by next Tuesday. Anacostia Economic Development Corp. President Butch Hopkins, meanwhile, has shifted blame for his project’s delays to Eckles. “If she wasn’t there, it could have happened last year,” he argues.
Tension Monts When John A. Wilson Building developer T. Conrad Monts obeyed a court order to testify on his ill-starred project, he faced an irate D.C. Council. On at least one question, Chair Linda Cropp was nicer to his attorney. When Richard Gross started the session by reading his client’s scripted statement, Cropp offered a teacherly compliment: “Your reading is fine,” she said. Then she ordered Monts to reread his statement himself.
Can’t See TV Since D.C. shipped many of its medium-security prisoners to a Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) facility in Youngstown, Ohio, family members of inmates have spent hours trekking northwest to visit loved ones. With some
ballyhoo, the private prison firm last month unveiled plans to bridge the distance via “visual visitation,” wherein family members can spend quality time via satellite hookup. But on the closed-circuit broadcast’s Jan. 28 launch date, screens remained blank. According to a CCA source, AmeritechOhio’s local phone companymade the high-tech inmate hookup a low priority. Another source familiar with the program cites a more specific technological problem: “a switch they were not familiar with out in northeast Ohio that needed to be turned on.” CCA officials say that relatives shouldn’t hop on the turnpike just yet. “The kinks are still being worked out,” says CCA spokeswoman Gloria Lloyd. “[T]hey’re working on it now, and maybejust maybeit’s going to be ready this week.”
Gypsy Blues On Sept. 9, Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) Chief Charles Ramsey unveiled a plan to combat the city’s abysmally low homicide closure rate: transferring D.C. homicide detectives from their centralized unit into local districts (“Death by a Thousand Moves,” 12/4/98). Detectives packed up their belongings and waited for the big move. They’re still waiting. Ramsey promised the officers would be ensconced in their new digs by year’s end, but detectives are still working out of cardboard boxes. MPD Executive Assistant Chief Terrance Gainer says the move will now happen in March. “They need to be patient,” he says. Detectives argue that homicide unit homelessness only makes their job harder to handle. “[The detectives] want to get this over with,” says Lt. Brian McAllister. “I think the morale here is very low. It’s been low for a long time.”
Field of Rumors It seems that some developers think the easiest way to win over skeptical locals is to promise a Fresh Fields. Two weeks ago, Mark Rasmussen returned home to find dump trucks lined up in front of the former roller rink that sits across Kalorama Road from his house. Rasmussen called Douglas Development to see what they had in store. “It looks like it is going to be a Fresh Fields,” Rasmussen claims Douglas Vice President Paul Millstein eagerly told him. Neighbors say they’ve had the promise of organic carrot juice dangled once too often, and now Douglas is taking a different tack. “That’s just an ugly rumor [about Fresh Fields],” responds Millstein. “We have no tenant for it at this time….We really like the way the building looks.”
Reporting by Jason Cherkis, Laura Lang, Nefretiti Makenta, Elissa Silverman, and Jake Tapper.
#Please send your City Desk tips to Elissa
Silverman at email@example.com or call 332-2100 and ask for my voice mail.