How to build a better block

This blog post at NYTimes.com profiles a neighborhood group similar to the one I co-founded in uptown DC. I was pointed to it by a DC ANC commissioner and activist who said our movement reminded him of theirs.

A couple key differences – their movement was started by professional planners and designers, while ours was started by folks with nothing but gusto. Also, many of the Texas environments that they are reforming are actually failed suburban refits trying to go back to their urban days. Kennedy Street is and was always an urban environment, just one that lost its customer base to crime and cars. Different problems to solve, but we are using some of the same tactics.

The “Things used to be worse” excuse

Sometimes people make obvious statements just to defend a position without vision or ambition. This is one I hear all the time:

Kennedy Street used to be so much worse.

There are two type of people who I hear this from all the time. One type is the NIMBY, which fears change for its own sake, and has – in some cases real and justified – reasons for this. The other type is the politician who has done nothing for the neighborhood, and gets impatient with the spirit and energy of those who are doing more.

This episode of the FBI files profiled the First and Kennedy Crew and their struggle with the G-men from the 1990s. During the summer, there were shootings in many booming neighborhoods like Columbia Heights and H Street NE. There’s been no major reports of violence from these blocks this year. Sure, it has further to go, but let’s help it get there faster.

Just because we’ve come this far doesn’t mean we should always be looking back.