THE LIST of activities jeopardized by the absence of a congressionally approved city budget seems neverending. One such item that recently came to our attention is the "Shapiro tract" in the Adams-Morgan area, now used as a community park and playground. Unless the city makes a commitment to buy the land by March 30, it will be sold to private developers who intend to use the site to build 150 townhouses. Money that the city needs to purchase the land is in the budget now before Congress. But it is most unlikely that congressional approval will come before the March 30 deadline.
The 4.6-acre site is owned by Maurice Shapiro, who has leased it for the past 13 years to Adams-Morgan neighborhood organizations at a cost of $1 a year. Residents have created their own community park and playground there by clearing away rubble, erecting bleachers, planting flowers, building playground equipment and keeping the place tidy. As a result, the park has become a prime location for festivals, children's activities and even Little League baseball games. For the past several years, Mayor Washington and City Council members have favored purchasing the land for a park. Community groups as well as the National Capital Planning Commission have supported the idea, citing the limited park and recreation space in that neighborhood.
The budget question aside, there is stil one way the District government could buy the land. Tucked away in the current budget is $2 million in "reprogramed funds" - that's bureaucratese for money that hasn't been spent on one activity, and that city officials want reassigned to another. In the past, Congress has allowed the city to spend its "reprogramed" money, if both the House and Senate Appropriations subcommittees on the District give their consent. That means that the city can make an approved financial shuffle even before Congress votes on the full budget.
A few days ago, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee, sent a letter to District officials supporting the spending of reassigned money for the Adams-Morgan land. But approval has not yet come from Rep. William Natcher (D-Ky.), chairman of the subcommittee in the House. We think that Mr. Natcher should give quick support to the purchase of the Shapiro tract. This is an item that can - and should - be treated differently from other requests in the 1978 budget.