Victor L. Hoskins, the District’s deputy mayor for planning and economic development, told a D.C. Superior Court judge Thursday that he did not know the costs or environmental requirements of building a parking lot for tour buses in the Ivy City neighborhood when he signed a license agreement approving plans last spring.
Residents of Ivy City, backed by advocates from the group Empower DC, sued the District and the Union Station Redevelopment Corporation to try to prevent dozens of charter buses from being stored at the parking lot of the former Alexander Crummell School, at 1900 Gallaudet Ave. NE. Paving of the lot is already underway.
The District and USRC want to relocate the charter buses to the former school while Union Station undergoes a major renovation in coming years. Previously, residents were hoping to turn the building into a job training center.
Neighbors allege in the suit that the city failed to properly inform the community of their plans or to consider the potential environmental and health effects of locating the buses there, particularly as some neighbors of the property suffer from respiratory illness.
Hoskins, deputy to Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D), testified Thursday morning that he knew very few specifics about the parking lot plan. He repeatedly told the plaintiff’s attorney, Johnny Barnes, a retired official from the nation’s capital chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, that he left logistics of the project to staff.
When Barnes asked, for instance, what the threshold requiring an environmental impact statement was for a project under D.C. law, Hoskins said he didn’t know.
“I have project managers and other experts that work through all the details,” he said.
In response to a question about how much construction of the parking lot would cost, Hoskins also said he didn’t know.
Later Judge Judith N. Macaluso, who toured the school site recently, also heard testimony from Michael Durso, who managed the project for Hoskins until later September, when he moved to City Administrator Allen Lew’s office.
Durso’s departure from Hoskins’ office came shortly after a meeting in the neighborhood at which Durso, by all accounts, came under verbal assault. Hoskins, who had signed the license agreement some two months prior, was at the meeting and said Durso “was interrupted repeatedly. People were calling him names and yelling across the room. Like, ‘liar.’ ”
Durso, in his testimony, said he and his colleagues considered more than half a dozen sites for a bus parking lot but that the Ivy City site was the only one meeting the requirements for access, space and zoning the parking lot required.
Some two months after the Ivy City site had been selected and written into the license agreement, he presented information to the Ivy City community, which by that time was furious with the decision. He said he began walking through a 35-image slide show for residents but didn’t make it very far.
“Honestly, that night I only got through 10 slides. I was told to stop by ’ representatives of the Advisory Neighborhood Commission, he said.
Judge Macaluso continued to hear further testimony Thursday afternoon. She has not said when she may issue a ruling.
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