D.C. Residents Wait In Stadium's Shadow

By Petula Dvorak
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 31, 2008

As streams of fans headed to Nationals Park in Southeast Washington last night, music washed over the nearby neighborhoods. Listening to the amplified notes and squinting at the bright lights of the ballpark, residents who live in the brick rowhouses on the other side of South Capitol Street wondered whether good fortune would drift their way as well.

"People are double-parking and triple-parking. I haven't been able to get a parking space near my home all week now," said Doris Crawley, 66, who can see the stadium from the front door of her O Street SE home.

"I have a parking permit, but it doesn't do me any good when my street's always full," she said.

Her putty-colored toy poodle, Spice, barked and yapped at the police cars, the crowds of people walking past and the musical crescendos.

"My dog goes crazy with all the noise," Crawley said.

Balloon arches welcomed ticket-holders who had never set foot in this neighborhood, and music heralded their march from parking lots, but the blocks west of the stadium weren't celebrating.

"This has changed my life already. I can't go in and out of my house without really thinking about it," said Emma Ward, a retired teacher who lives two blocks from the stadium.

She walked to the grocery store yesterday rather than drive and risk losing a spot in her neighborhood.

The city was making good on its promise to ticket and tow cars without residential permits that had overstayed the two-hour parking limit. Police officers on bicycles were issuing the tickets. As early as 3 p.m., at least five cars along O Street SW had $15 parking tickets on their windshields. Many were later towed.

Aside from the parking issue, Ward's biggest fear is that the team and its owners won't interact with the children who will grow up near a baseball stadium. She was able to get tickets for 22 neighborhood children for Saturday night's exhibition game through a nonprofit group she founded to help them.

"But I want more than just a game. I want them to have learning opportunities and life opportunities," she said. "The team can do this."

Some of the kids were out playing last night, near empty bottles of Wild Irish Rose and Hennessy just one block from the stadium. They asked passersby for tickets. They said they hadn't had any luck.

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