A bus terminal for the D.C. Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) planned for the Brentwood community in Northeast has been met with staunch opposition, as residents accuse Mayor Muriel Bowser of using the area as a dumping ground for high concentrations of industrial polluting facilities that affect the community’s health and quality of life on a daily basis.
Legal action was filed Tuesday against Bowser and the District on behalf of the residents by Empower DC, which claims that the city government violated its own laws by deciding to locate the terminal at 16th and W streets.
Local civil rights attorney Johnny Barnes said in a statement that the courts, “all the way up through the Supreme Court,” have stopped construction projects if laws were not followed when moving the construction forward.
“A $160 million Dam Project was stopped to protect fish; and a $40 million highway project was stopped to protect spiders, when laws were not followed,” Barnes said. “Surely our courts should stop this $20 million, ill-conceived bus terminal, that, according to the experts we have assembled, would harm the health, safety and life of District residents. That is what this lawsuit is about.”
Empower DC said that when Brentwood residents reached out to the organization for support, they heard a familiar story of a predominantly Black community being ignored by city officials when they raised objections to a project that they knew would harm their neighborhood.
“When we looked deeper, we saw that for decades Brentwood residents have raised objections to the over-concentration of polluting industrial facilities, but government officials have failed to act,” the grassroots organization said. “Our goal with this lawsuit is not only to stop the placement of the OSSE bus terminal in this already overburdened community, but to shine a light on the city’s failure to consider cumulative impact and racial equity with the placement of harmful facilities, and to ultimately bring about real change in the way we approach the planning and siting for facilities like this one.”