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KUDOS TO WASHINGTON City Paper for your excellent piece, “Downtown Ghost Town: The Last Days of an N Street Apartment Building” (3/8). Erik Wemple captures the urban landscape very well indeed. Joe Mullin in his battle to save 1755 N Street Apartments is an urban hero. His lonely battle against Morton Bender & Co. is a saga of courage, perseverance, and intelligence. Joe Mullin without a law degree is smarter than many lawyers with one.
The D.C. Tenants’ Advocacy Coalition (TENAC) supports cases like 1755 N St. and the Dorchester House tenants association case because they represent terrible violation of the D.C. rent control law. The N Street case shows how one of the city’s premiere blocks fell siege to developers hellbent on wrecking downtown housing and historic preservation. Known as the “N Street Follies,” their St. Matthew’s Cathedral plan wreaks havoc on one side of the street and their 1755 N Apartments plan does it to the other.
Wemple makes one mistake in his otherwise fine treatment of this story. His elegiac tone suggests an utterly lost cause. ’Taint necessarily so! Joe Mullin is not a martyr, nor a tilter at windmills. After all, money doesn’t always have to win. The Brookings case, one block away, proves that. There, housing was snatched out of the jaws of rampant, runaway commercial development, long after “they said it couldn’t be done.” A rental-housing win at 1755 N St. would be a win for the whole city.