No ‘Plan’ for Ivy City, says Vincent Gray

December 12, 2012

Crummell crumbles while neighborhood fights bus lot plans. (Jared Soares — The Washington Post)

Hoo-boy, if you haven’t read Courtland Milloy’s column Wednesday on the latest developments in the Ivy City bus lot case, you’re in for quite a read. There’s talk of rapacious developers, carcinogenic exhaust, a crumbling historic school, plus bike lanes and dog parks, all tied together by the specter of “The Plan.”

The Plan, of course, is what Milloy himself once called a “nefarious 1970s urban legend about whites scheming to take over the District.” Various tellings of the tale have power brokers at the Federal City Council or Greater Washington Board of Trade pulling strings for marionette-like politicos, many of them black themselves, to evict low-income African-American residents from their longtime homes by any means necessary.

Milloy’s invocation of The Plan in this instance is rather novel. Usually, Plan aficionados see its workings in upscale development — condo conversions, mixed use projects, “affordable” housing requirements that aren’t — that makes it impossible for poor residents to afford their rents or tax bills, if they aren’t simply evicted outright. In this case, The Plan is seen in a city effort that makes an already low-rent neighborhood even less desirable. The Plan, you see, works in mysterious and multiple ways (much like the invisible hand of capitalism).

Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D), informed at a news conference Wednesday that he’s the latest executor of The Plan, was not amused.

“I’ve been in this city all my life, and I’ve heard about The Plan for decades,” he said. “I’m still looking for The Plan. If somebody has a copy of it, I’d love to see it, so the next time I talk about it, I can really present a document that says, ‘Here is The Plan.’”

Gray said he is “certainly not going to be a part of any plan to move people out of the District of Columbia.” But he also refused to back off plans that could park 65 additional buses in the low-income neighborhood, already surrounded by city vehicle lots, train yards and warehouses.

A Superior Court judge last week ordered a halt to the plans to use the lot, surrounding the vacant Crummell School, for parking purposes, finding that the city follow laws requiring advisory neighborhood commission outreach and an environment review.

Gray characterized the ruling as dealing with “procedural issues” and said his administration would, barring a legal appeal, address them: “I think the first step is to try to address some of the procedural questions that have been raised and just see where we are.”

He also bristled at the suggestion that the city had reneged on promises to renovate Crummell as a community center or for some other neighborhood use. Last year, the District’s Department of Housing and Community Development gave a presentation featuring a “reimagined” Crummell School serving as a centerpiece of an Ivy City renaissance.

Gray distanced himself from any concrete plans: “I didn’t talk to anybody about preserving Crummell. … That school has been used as a homeless shelter, it’s been vacant. I have been a part of no discussions like that.”

Mike DeBonis covers local politics and government for The Washington Post. He also writes a blog and a political analysis column that runs on Fridays.
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Mike DeBonis · December 12, 2012