Fewer than a dozen days after the dedication of a community park built with federal funds, a group of neighbors who fear that the park may be demolished met to let the city know they hope the park will be permanent.
The new park, in the 1400 block of Girard Street NW, is on land owned by the D.C Department of Housing and Community Development. It was built with a $234,000 grant received by the D.C. Department of Labor from the U.S. Departments of Labor and Agriculture.
"It seems a bit absurd to me that one branch of the government would spend $200,000 to build something and then six months later another branch would tear it down," said Michael McIcer, project director for the park. He was among the approximately 100 residents who attended a recent community forum, sponsored by Advisory Neighborhood Commission 1B-16, at All Souls Unitarian Church.
When the city gave permission for development of the park, McIver said, "it was always understood that it was a temporary site. "But, he said, "They (city planners) also knew want was intended" for the site.
The park has two tennis courts, two basketball courts, a tenis practice wall and playground equipment. The federal grant paid for the training and salaries of 50 CETA employes who built the park and for building materials, and the projects was overseen by the Columbia Heights Youth Club.
"They (the residents) were upset because it was their understanding that the park would be torn down," said McIver.
"Through the ANC we were asking for a moratorium on the development because we knew that highrise building would be going up in the fall," said Tony Hillary, commissioner for ANC 1B-16. He said the highrise was to be guilt by the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development.
However, Reginald Green, the housing department's acting area director for wards 1 and 4, said the housing department has no plans to build a highrise on the park site.
At present, the department owns six buildings on Girard Street in an area known as Parcel 5, Green said. Parcel 5 also includes the community park.
Because the city's approved urban renewal newal plan calls for everything in Parcel 5 to be demolished, Green said, the housing department has asked the National Capital Planning Commission to approve a change in the plan allowing the department to rehabilitate the six buildings for low- to moderate-income families.
Green noted that the "department has made no decision at this point about what to do about that remaining part of Parcel 5 where the playground sits.It's going to take some more discussions with the community and the department staff."
The fact that more than $200,000 has already been spent to develop the park "could possibly" influence the final decision, he said.
A petition signed by 250 community members reqesting that the temporary parks be made permanent was recently delivered to the Department of Housing and Community Development, ANC commisioner Hillary said. "We want something in writing -- some assurances," Hillary said. "Are we feel that we do need open space."
Without that, he said, "it's going to creat the same kind of conditions as before the riots -- just a whole bunch of people with no place to go and nothing to do." CAPTION: Picture 1, Basketball courts are part of Girard Street Park facilities. Photos by Craig Herndon -- The Washington Post; Picture 2, Shartiek May, 5, spins around on Girard Street Park Merry-go-round.