June 15, 2021
Officers Present: Dan Schramm, Kathy Jacquart, Leila Duman, and Fred Jackson
1. Welcome – Dan Schramm and Prita Piekara (ANC 5B03)
Dan welcomed everyone to the meeting which was jointly hosted with ANC 5B03. The meeting began with introductions of everyone on the call, stating their name, if they are a resident of the Brookland/Brentwood area, and their organizational affiliations if relevant. Dan gave a summary of the ongoing safety issues around the Brentwood strip on Rhode Island Avenue and invited everyone to be a part of further conversations and collaborations on these issues. Prita commented on the complexity of addressing problems like this but expressed optimism that changes can be made to improve the situation for the whole community.
2. Presentation on Brentwood Manor – Jamie Weinbaum and Dr. Robert Johns (MidCity Financial)
Jamie Weinbaum summarized the redevelopment plans for Brookland Manor, which MidCity Financial owns along with several other properties in the area. They are currently lining up financing and hope to begin construction in 2022 on two new apartment buildings (at the now vacant site by Saratoga Ave. and 14th St.) which were approved in 2017. One building will be affordable housing for seniors while the other will be affordable housing for current residents of Brookland Manor. The developments will include below-grade parking. The ultimate plan is to create a mixed-income community that retains current residents and adds new ones as well.
Dan asked that they specifically address an incident reported in a Washington Post article, where private security blocked a movie showing for tenants outside of Brookland Manor, noting that the level of enforcement reported was not appropriate to the situation. Dr. Robert Johns, who is Director of Community Development for MidCity, agreed that the report was very concerning. He shared that they had met with city representatives including Councilman McDuffie’s office, that descallation training is taking place, and that management is developing an event request form to ensure that everyone involved is aware when permission has been granted to have an event on the private property.
The MidCity shared their understanding of causes of the violence in the area as well as resources to address it, including:
- The recent escalating violence is a combination of retaliatory interpersonal issues by people who live in the neighborhood, beginning from an incident about a month ago, and even more recently from individuals who do not live in the neighborhood.
- Violence Interrupters, including those from the Far Southeast Family Strengthening Collaborative, are on the premises and working diligently to address the community strife that is leading to violence. Underlying issues and trauma, however, must still be addressed.
- There are opportunities for community members who wish to get involved to volunteer for outreach and after school enrichment programs, such as an outdoor summer camp and daily food distribution.
- The Community Center and green space, which had been closed due to the COCVID-19 Pandemic, have reopened as of 06/14.
- Plans are in motion to enhance and make more sustainable the community development programs offered to residents to address the systemic challenges that will not just disappear in a new development. Current on site programs include PSI Family Services which provides case management, counseling, and outreach services and the Healthy Families Collaborative.
Upon request, Lieutenant Joy Lee reported that MPD is aware of the recent violence in Brentwood and on Rhode Island Ave. MPD has been watching the area and increasing patrols to try to deter unwanted activity, making arrests, and encouraging prosecutors to issue stay away orders for that location.
3. Gun Violence Prevention – Dir. Linda Harllee Harper (Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement) and Dep. Dir. Dana McDaniels (Gun Violence Prevention Emergency Operations Center)
Dana McDaniels explained, in more depth, the conflict between some residents of Saratoga and Brentwood and reaffirmed that violence interrupters are working to address as many of these interpersonal conflicts as possible. She discussed the importance of community involvement in this work:
- Peacekeeping efforts, which had been centered on outside rivals, such as those from Langon, are now primarily focused internally.
- Some individuals congregate at the Brentwood strip because they have been banned from the Brookland manor. Work is being done to find a safer place for members of the community to congregate together and outside.
- Violence is a result of communities that have been in pain. The more that a community takes the lead in programs and work to address and rectify community pain, the more support organizations can provide assistance tailored to what the community wishes to see happen.
- The proposed Brookland/Brentwood Good Neighbor Agreement is something that may prove very beneficial and should be collaborative in its development process to garner buy-in across the community through conversations within different groups. Dana offered to begin a conversation with young people in the area and Prita affirmed her intent to get voices across the neighborhood involved.
Linda Harllee Harper shared that these struggles are not uncommon across the District. In listening to residents, she has heard how tired communities are of this violence, but also that they are willing to come together to find solutions.
- DC’s Building Blocks DC program and the Gun Violence Prevention Emergency Operations Center (EOC) are unique in that they are a public health approach to gun violence. Based on the City’s success in a COVID-19 Emergency Operations Center, which helped coordinate a whole-of-government approach to the Pandemic, the ECO seeks to connect the rich – but traditionally siloed – resources in the City to address gun violence by partnering with the community in co-creating public safety.
- More resources are being allocated to these programs. For instance, the Mayor committed $50 million to gun violence prevention in FY21 and $59 million is allotted in the FY22 budget for gun violence prevention.
- This will cover 52 additional Violence Interrupters and 11 more Case Managers to expand scope of services provided by the Office of Neighborhood Safety.
- The Pathways Program will also be expanded by 4 cohorts of 25 participants.
- It is hoped that the Street Works Certification Program will be launched soon, potentially in collaboration with the University of the District of Columbia, to bring together all outreach workers for a more coordinated effort. This will provide certification to the people who do this difficult work, some of whom have been recently incarcerated or have had minimal formal job experience; investment in their success is key to community success, and such a training program would help them eventually move on to future employment.
- Building Blocks Grants are available up to $5,000 for Mini Grants and up to $50,000 for RFA’s for non profits, providing support for communities through ideas from within those communities. Applications are open now and accessible to all residents. There is a hard deadline for the first round of grants to enable issuing grants as soon as possible so the programs will be in place by mid-July. Other rounds are planned to follow. More information can be found at progressivelifecenter.org/bbdcapps/
Magdalena Acevedo with the US Attorney’s Office for DC provided a status update on a prosecution of a suspect in a recent shoot out. Despite serious charges, and a prior felony, the suspect has been released back into the community with no restrictions on liberty or special monitoring. She explained that this is common in DC, estimating that of the detentions that prosecutors ask for prior to trial in cases involving gun possession, judges release 90% back into the community. This is due to the DC Criminal Statue which presumes that persons should be held without bond if they commit violent crimes, but which does not require it. The determination is therefore left up to the individual judges. Community members can impact sentencing through a Community Impact Statement, but this is of use only at the sentencing stage. The City Council could perhaps change this to be pertinent to the prosecution before the suspect’s release, as well. Finally, an investigation is open regarding the recent shooting near the Walgreens and they are looking for tips. Anyone with information to share can email Magdalena Acevedo at Magdalena.acevedo[AT]usdoj[DOT]gov and she will pass along tips directly to the detective.
4. Community Discussion on potential Good Neighbor Agreement – led by ANC 5B03 Prita Piekara
Prita explained that this would be a preliminary discussion on construction of a Good Neighbor Agreement, and that further discussions will take place focusing on resident input. For the purposes of this discussion, a Good Neighbor Agreement can be defined as establishing a vision and sets goals for how residents, businesses, and services will work together to support mutual success, communituate, and address concerns and problems.
- The agreement would not be legally enforceable but would set our community values and guide posts, such as everyone having a right to personal safety, safe and quiet enjoyment of property, and the use of public spaces for appropriate purposes.
- The main goal is to foster open and transparent communications, developing clear expectations for procedures and resolving problems.
- Community input and buy-in is essential, so conversations will be held to determine what is important to each group of stakeholders in setting expectations for community members, property and business owners, and organizations like BNCA, ANC, MPD, and others.
- Preliminary discussions have taken place with Ms. Weatherington at the Office of Attorney General which indicates that these would be private rules of use of the private property. While not a basis for criminal enforcement or involvement of police, there could possibly be rules that could be enforced as a civil matter.
Group discussion covered the following topics:
- Ward 8 has developed a Community Code of Conduct that would be a useful reference point for this project. Prita will follow up on this.
- It would behoove the community to encourage MidCity to develop a safe room for children 5-12 years old in their new buildings. This could provide meals and resources for children (and support for their parents), remove them from bad examples, and teach productive things such as hobbies, music, and academics. Could also help in a Violence Intervention context if used as a safe space within the location for programming. An important caveat is that any volunteers working with children would need to be vetted to ensure the safety of the children.
- MPD has limited resources and has not been able to provide the requested 24 hour surveillance at the Brookland Market. Mr. Fernbock, the property owner, has agreed to offer and pay for private security from 5-8 PM for a trial month.
5. Other Announcements
- The ANC will meet June 23rd. This will be the last meeting until September due to summer recess. Residents can reach out to Prita at 5b03[AT]anc[DOT]dc[DOT]gov to add items to the agenda.
- A hearing in the U.S. Senate on S.51 for D.C. statehood will take place Tuesday, June 22nd at 10:00 AM. A rally will be held from 8:30 – 9:30 AM at 2nd St NE and E Capitol which all are encouraged to attend. More information can be found at www.showup4dc.com/.
- The Black Voters Matter Freedom Ride for Voting Rights will end in DC on Saturday, June 26th having begun in Jackson, MS on the 18th. More information, including details on a rally, can be found at blackvotersmatterfund.org/freedom-ride/.
Meeting Adjourned at 9:35 PM.
The next Zoom meeting will take place on Tuesday, July 20th at 7:00 PM ET.