Illegal dumping is a huge concern for residents in Ward 7. (Courtesy photo)
Illegal dumping is a huge concern for residents in Ward 7. (Courtesy photo)

Dissatisfied with the way the D.C. government has responded to quality-of-life concerns that include illegal dumping and vacant housing and lots, residents of the Deanwood neighborhood in Ward 7 have combined forces in efforts to secure answers from city officials.

“This is our neighborhood,” said Charlene Pierce, a Deanwood resident at a Oct. 7 community meeting at Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church. “We love Deanwood. We want to make life better for ourselves and our neighbors. When we have complaints about something, we complain but we don’t get the same response that people who live in other wards do.”

Deanwood, located in Northeast bounded by Eastern Avenue to the northeast, Kenilworth Avenue to the northwest, Division Avenue on the southeast and Nannie Helen Burroughs Avenue to the south, has a median price for a single-family home at $395,000 according to Redfin.com. The average price of a one-bedroom apartment stands at $1,001, Apartments.com reported. 

In contrast, the median listing of a house in the District hovers around $630,000 according to Realtor.com while the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment stands at $2,335 according to RentCafe.com. In 2018, Redfin listed Deanwood as one of the 10 hottest neighborhoods in the country.

Deanwood residents have repeatedly complained about the city’s lack of attention to the neighborhood. Dorothy Douglas, an advisory neighborhood commissioner whose single-member district encompasses Deanwood, said District residents should receive the same level of services no matter where they live.

“Our issues are the same as everyone else’s,” Douglas said. “We should not let city officials use us. When projects are handed out, we get pennies and crumbs while other neighborhoods get millions and billions of dollars. We should be treated the same as if we lived in Georgetown.”

The Washington Interfaith Network (WIN), a citywide social service organization, has joined Deanwood residents in their quest for equity in receiving city services. The Rev. Ryane Nickens, a WIN strategy team member, said Deanwood’s proliferation of vacant houses, vacant lots and abandoned cars and tires send a negative message to the rest of the city.

“It is as if we are the city’s trash can,” Nickens said. “We want to make Deanwood what it should be and not what they [people outside of Deanwood] want it to be until they occupy it. When people in this neighborhood have problems getting rid of trash, we need our government to respond to us the same way they respond to others.”

One community resident, Evelyn Davis, voiced similar concerns. 

“I live near a house that has been vacant for almost 20 years,” she said of the shuttered dwelling located on the 4800 block of Jay Street, NE. “Near me, there is a vacant lot that has rodents, trash and stolen cars on it. The person who owns the vacant lot needs to clean it up.”

Joyce Forrest said people have been struck by vehicles recently on her block. She also said cars can be found parked in alleys. Dwight Redd said trees near traffic signs remain obstructed by growing trees and plants. The Reverend Freddie Davis, pastor of Pilgrim Rest, said apartment dwellers across the street from the church use the church’s trash receptacle because they don’t have one.  

Saudia Jenkins, who works as a Ward 7 representative for the Mayor’s Office on Community Relations and Services, said residents should contact District government agencies when they’re having a problem with services. She advised residents to attend their advisory neighborhood commission meetings where agency officials can often be found. 

Jason Phillips, an account manager with the former Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, said his agency has become two entities: the Department of Building and the Department of Licensing and Consumer Protection. He urged residents to continue to report problems until they’re either resolved or adequately addressed. He said it’s not uncommon for vacant houses and lots to be owned by people who live in the neighborhood and added that sometimes residents have to play the role of “the bad man” and complain about issues.

Rev. Davis said Deanwood residents will step up their advocacy for their neighborhood.

“We will seek to meet with our city officials on matters we are concerned about,” he said. “We are going to stay in Deanwood. We are not leaving.”

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James Wright Jr.

James Wright Jr. is the D.C. political reporter for the Washington Informer Newspaper. He has worked for the Washington AFRO-American Newspaper as a reporter, city editor and freelance writer and The Washington...

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