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Neighbors around First and Atlantic Streets SW complained to police when they witnessed contractor R.L. Hall dumping automotive products such as hydraulic fluid down the storm drain and otherwise using their quiet streets as a garage. “His back yard looked like Sanford and Son,” says Environmental Crimes Unit investigator Paul Kurgan. Kurgan and his partner later noticed city snow-plow blades sitting beside other trucks owned by Hall. After determining that the trucks were not properly inspected and licensed, Kurgan had the vehicles condemned right before last week’s snow fall. Despite having the blades, says Department of Public Works spokesperson Linda Grant, “he was not accepted into the snow removal program”—meaning the ticketing didn’t hold up D.C.’s snow removal. Grant explains that some contractors who apply to clear D.C.’s snow receive city snow-plow blades in advance. If the application gets rejected, “we simply ask that the equipment be returned,” she says. Hall did not return calls.

District of Complaint At a Southeast community meeting last weekend, one resident immediately began hounding newly installed Mayor Anthony A. Williams on a parking issue. Williams quickly interjected: “If you’re making a complaint, and it’s pre-Jan. 2, press 1.”

Total Recall Workers answering the phones at the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) office greet callers by saying “thank you for calling the new DCRA.” Apparently, someone’s taken the make-over even further, by literally wiping out the memory of the old DCRA. Administrators in the business and land-regulation division discovered memory chips missing from two computers last week. Spokesperson Lyn Alexander says the theft has prompted the DCRA to order locks for its 300-plus computer hard drives. The thief remains at large.

The Great Wall MCI Center supporters said that the complex would create a rising tide in the surrounding neighborhood. But many Chinatown business owners now say they’ve been shipwrecked by a tidal wave. According to local entrepreneur Alfred Liu, skyrocketing downtown rents, plus a

dramatic decrease in Chinatown business—owing in part to a 4 p.m.-7:30 p.m. parking ban around the MCI Center—have closed many businesses. Heng Kang International gift shop and the Triway Enterprise travel agency have already shuttered, the Da Hua market may close soon, and Chinatown landmarks Golden Palace and Eat First are making way for new projects spearheaded by developers Herbert Miller and Douglas Jemal. (Golden Palace plans to relocate.) “Their dinner hours have been completely wiped out,” says Liu, who claims developers want to gut D.C.’s last ethnic neighborhood. Liu—who has filed a lawsuit charging that Miller’s Western Development Group improperly won a bid to develop the Gallery Place Metro parcel, next to the MCI Center—believes the project will choke the few remaining holdouts. “It’s like saying to the tiger, ‘You have such beautiful fur,’ and then killing the tiger to get the fur.”

One Bad Macchiato What started out as an innocent request for an exotic coffee drink has percolated into a citizen’s complaint against D.C. police and a potential lawsuit against Starbucks. On Dec. 9, Merle J. Ramsey-Boissiere says she ordered a regular macchiato at a Dupont Circle Starbucks. Ramsey-Boissiere claims that she was “then verbally harassed to have ‘a this or that or some “camel” drink,’” according to her letter to Starbucks chief executive officer Howard Schultz. Verbal sparring ensued. Seconds after Ramsey-Boissiere says she told an employee to “‘get out my face, child,’” an off-duty D.C. cop flashed his badge and asked her to leave. She says that when she refused, officers arrested her for unlawful entry. Ramsey-Boissiere has retaliated with complaints against the officers and has asked Schultz for $500,000 to compensate for the “emotional trauma, mental anguish, and public humiliation inflicted.” She also pledged to rid her system of the “socially accepted ‘commercial drug’” sold by the chain. Starbucks officials declined comment.

Reporting by Eddie Dean, Elissa Silverman, and Jake Tapper.

Please send your City Desk tips to Elissa

Silverman at esilverman@washcp.com or call 332-2100 and ask for my voice mail.