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U Street was once D.C.’s answer to New York’s 125th Street. Indeed, as a center of African-American arts and culture, the street dates back even farther than Harlem’s main drag. But despite the neighborhood’s best efforts, the “New U” is no match for its northern sibling. While the Apollo Theatre hums with life and broadcasts its amateur night to the nation, U Street’s Lincoln Theatre is a quiet place that’s mostly off the radar screen. That changes this weekend, when the D.C. Department of Recreation and Parks commandeers the Lincoln to host the mayor’s “Futurefest ’98,” a two-day talent competition where local teens sing, dance, and perform for scholarships. The festival promises the Apollo’s young ambition withoutthey hopeGotham’s hecklers. No word yet about the Lincoln’s answer to the Apollo’s Sandman. From 1-7 p.m. today and Sunday at the Lincoln Theatre, 1215 U St. NW., with a street festival along U St., between 10th & 14th St. NW. Free. (202) 673-7663. (Michael Schaffer)