D.C. Recreation Wish List Committee Files Papers in Bid to Halt Eviction

By Hamil R. Harris and Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, August 20, 2009

Attorneys for former D.C. first lady Cora Masters Barry and officials with the Recreation Wish List Committee have filed papers for the committee to become a registered D.C. corporation, in an effort to prevent the organization from being evicted from the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center.

Robin-Eve Jasper, director of the D.C. Office of Property Management, served Barry a 30-day notice last week to vacate the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center that she built a decade ago because the organization had allowed its charter as a registered corporation to expire.

"By filing the appropriate documents, it is the committee's hope that Mayor [Adrian M.] Fenty, and other city officials, will immediately rescind the order, paving the way for the [Recreation Wish List Committee] to continue to provide services for the children and families of Ward 8," Barry said in a statement Tuesday.

The Tennis and Learning Center, on Mississippi Avenue in Congress Heights, is one of the city's premier recreation facilities and is primarily funded and operated by the Department of Parks and Recreation.

A spokesman for the mayor had no comment on Barry's action, but D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles said that even if the Wish List filed the paperwork, it would be too late to rescind the eviction. "They have no legal status" in the city because their registration was revoked, he said.

Although A. Scott Bolden, the attorney for the Wish List, filed the necessary paperwork, he said in an interview Tuesday, it was the city that broke the terms of the lease.

"In the lease agreement between the Wish List and the city, it specifically indicates that if the corporate status lapses, the Wish List committee gets 30 days to cure that defect, and we were not given the chance to do that. We cured it in less than 24 hours in a good-faith move," he said.

Last month, the D.C. government signed an agreement with the United States Tennis Association to expand the opportunities for D.C. youth to learn tennis. Barry said her organization was not part of that effort even though the Southeast tennis center has indoor and outdoor courts.

The city's action has sparked an outcry from parents and children who use the facility. Tennis champions Venus and Serena Williams have jumped into the fray in support of Barry, who is a friend of their family.

"It would be tragic to see the Recreation Wish List Committee kicked out of the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center, a building which exists because of the vision of Mrs. Cora Masters Barry, and of the hard work and dedication of many others, because of a paperwork mistake," the sisters said in a statement.

The mayor's office said in a statement, "While we can't comment on lease/contracting issues, the Administration appreciates the contributions and partnership of Cora Masters Barry over the years and will work hard to find ways to continue working with her going forward."

Ray Gets in the Race

Clark E. Ray, the former director of parks and recreation, said he is ready to jump into next year's race for the Democratic nomination for an at-large seat on the D.C. Council.

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