Residents of Clifton Terrace said yesterday they found little solace or satisfaction in the conviction of former Youth Pride Inc. official Mary Treadwell for conspiring to defraud the federal government and them of thousands of dollars meant for the upkeep of the run-down housing complex.
"So she was convicted. What benefits are the tenants getting from it?" said Patricia Smith, president of the Clifton Terrace Tenants Association. "We're not getting anything but a little blurb in the newspaper. Look at the conditions here. This conviction doesn't change anything here. The problems here didn't stop when Treadwell left."
Smith's comments reflected the feelings of many residents of the 285-unit apartment complex at 14th and Clifton streets NW that was a focal point of a lengthy federal probe that led to Treadwell's indictment.
P.I. Properties, a private nonprofit spinoff of the now-defunct Youth Pride Inc., acquired Clifton Terrace in 1974 from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as part of a model housing program designed to give ownership and management opportunities to minority businesses.
HUD foreclosed on Clifton Terrace and took back ownership in 1978.
Federal prosecutors charged that Treadwell and others conspired to siphon funds from Clifton Terrace for other profit-making ventures and to pay personal expenses.
Some residents said Treadwell was no better or worse than others who have managed their long-neglected apartment complex, which now has dusty, littered grounds, glass-strewn stairwells, broken elevators and dilapidated interiors.
A woman resident who refused to be identified said she sympathizes with Treadwell. "She is still a sister," the woman said. "She had done good things before this. But nobody talks about that. I wouldn't want to see her go to jail. The system is always trying to pit black people against each other. There should be more people on trial for doing the same thing."
Another resident, a 42-year-old mother of three who said she works at the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing, added: "What has she Treadwell done that the rest of them didn't do in that position?"
But Thomas Harvey, 26, a senior clerk at George Washington University Medical Center, said he was glad Treadwell had been convicted.
"She knew what she was doing," Harvey said. "The tenants did their part--they paid their rent. And then they got beat out of it. Now she's getting beat. She was the boss, and now she's paying the cost."
Treadwell, the former wife of Mayor Marion Barry, once was considered a leading voice on behalf of the city's downtrodden. She rose to become a prominent, hard-charging entrepreneur, with many supporters among the city's black community, before becoming the subject of a lengthy investigation by The Washington Post and subsequently by a federal grand jury.
"There is a real division in this town about whether she should be convicted or not," explained one knowledgable D.C. Democrat. "There's a cult of followers who think The Post put her in this position undeservedly . . . . A lot of black women viewed her as a positive role model. She's a very brilliant, persuasive person. She challenged the system, and there's a feeling that the white power structure brought her down."
City Council member H.R. Crawford (D-Ward 7), a former assistant secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development who approved the sale of Clifton Terrace to P.I. Properties, said Treadwell's conviction was distressing.
"I've always considered Mary to be a very strong, impressive individual and always had a great deal of admiration and respect for her which really hasn't been diminished at all by this ," he said. "You feel sorry for the person who had such potential and played a positive role in the lives of so many."
Barry, who cofounded Youth Pride in 1967 along with Treadwell but was never implicated in the federal investigation, had little to say yesterday about his former wife's conviction.
"This is a long, involved and complex case," Barry said in a statement released by his office. "The jury deliberations have set a record in time consumed in deliberations. There will no doubt be motions filed with the court addressing the question of acceptance or nonacceptance of the jury verdict, as well as post verdict motions. While this matter is in this present posture in the judiciary, it would seem inappropriate for me to comment."