Sunday, November 22, 2009

Strange column on Columbia Heights in the Post

Saw this the other day: Washington Post columnist Petula Dvorak writes about Columbia Heights with a column called "Columbia Heights still has far to go." I agree with that premise, but the column itself is... strange. It almost reads like it was much, much longer but was cut down, leaving not much actual content. She talks to a couple kids who aren't surprised by the violence in the area, and then attempts to contrast Tynan Coffee and Tea with an unused playground.

Dvorak talks to one other person who says the new development isn't making crime drop, and Dvorak mentions statistics that crime is going up. And that's it. The column just sort of ends. It's odd, and I don't really know what to think. Obviously there's a lot that still can improve in Columbia Heights, especially involving kids and crime, but at the same time, this column lends nothing -- no suggestions, no ideas, no examples. Post commenters are pretty angry about it, calling it a "hit job" and such. Your thoughts?


  1. Odd ending too with the mention of the whiny dudes post about Tynan from Prince of didn't make much sense to me.

  2. The article was read like an ugly mix of gentrification-hating and fear-mongering. It might as well have been from Fox News. It was badly researched, and the Prince of Petworth thing was out of context and a cheap shot with no relevance to the story (whatever that story might have been, because I'm still not sure). It was also inaccurate - crime has not increased in Columbia Heights. Sure, you can probably find a window of your choosing which has had more crime than the previous window of that size, but the overall trend from the last five or ten years has been steady decline.

    I really am not sure what her point is. There's crime in Columbia Heights? Shocker. Despite the existence of poverty, there are people who go to coffee shops? Well alert the press. Oh wait, that's what she did.

  3. The Post has never done a good job of covering Columbia Heights with a few exceptions.

    This was a column not a news article and is designed to cause folk to reflect and think. Unfortunately, we seem to lack to courage to reflect and think.

    The redevelopment of Columbia Heights was never simply about gentrification, but about addressing community and economic development needs. So yes develop is supposed to address crime, youth development, housing needs, parks, schools and neighborh retail amenities.

    And yes crime is up in Columbia Heights not down. The column is flawed, but it's a column. In this election and evaluation year let's have the courage to face these contradictions and bad policies with compound them, instead of looking to cop out.


  4. Mr. Jordan I presume?

    If there was one homicide in October, and two in November, would you say crime has doubled in Columbia Heights?

    Crime trends are not relevant when the numbers and time periods are small.

    Additionally, pure numbers of crimes are not significant. The number of crimes per capita are significant.

    If you think crime's increase in Columbia Heights, show me data covering five years, and crimes per capita.

    It's just not true. Even not accounting for population, there has been a general decline in the last five years, and there has been a huge population increase.

    There have been more crimes this year. But it's misleading and inaccurate to say "crime has increased" because one year is not a trend, and the population has also increased significantly in the area.

    You need to show me the data if you are going to back this up.

  5. My parents read the Washington Post and have heard about the shooting of Oscar Fuentes, which is bad enough because it was three buildings down from me. I really don't appreciate this article because it gives my parents even more to worry about without having any real content and loaded with inaccuracies. I defend the cultural diversity of my neighborhood and love it. I believe things really are improving. I wish she had not posted this article because it doesn't celebrate anything about the neighborhood I love. And just as a literary critic...this column is very poorly written.

  6. Depending on the catagory crime is up over the last 3 years for murder, robbery and etc. Over the last 5 years its been basically not change trending very very slightly down.

    Population is about the same only slightly slightly higher for CH.

    I based my comments from the stats in PSA 302 the area covered by the article. MPD only posts for the last 3 years, I can't query for the last 5. Statistically we are about where we have been for the last 5 years. Progress in some areas lost ground in others.

    Sure the column contains alot of BS, but it makes points we should not ignore.

    Go to

    Run PSA 302 year to date '09 then in another window '08. That will give you '07 throught '09.

    Where the article goes wrong is the use of broad stereo-types in this case mainly about so called "white yuppies" usually they stereo-type "black or latino low income" folk. Basically, what goes around is coming around. Until we realize we are in this together we will not achieve the progress that we should.


  7. I am only mildly offended my misrepresenting crime stats, since that is common practice among journalists.

    But the article presents a single side of a story, and casts the complex social issues in Columbia Heights with a broad, dismal brush, at the same time as making everyone in Columbia Heights who dares to have a job and shop at the new businesses seem like a callous tool.

    How would you feel about this article?

    "Columbia Heights has come a long way"

    "Ms. X" lives in Columbia Village. She used to take the bus to the run-down Safeway on Georgia Avenue to buy groceries for her family of three, or, more often, shop at expensive bodegas.

    Now she can walk to Giant and get supermarket prices steps from her front door.

    "I love the new supermarket! It saves me so much time and money, and it's clean. It makes me feel like a human being."

    Her 19-year old son started working at Target the first day they opened. The extra money has gone a long way towards helping Ms. X, a single mother, make ends meet.

    We also spoke to "Tattoo Boy," a young latino high-school student who lives in the neighborhood. He was returning from a pick-up soccer game at the new Harriet Tubman field. "It's so wonderful to have a nice field close to home. It used to be muddy or dusty, it was really bad, so we didn't use it much."


    I guarantee you I can find people who would express these sentiments.

    That article would be a feel-good puff piece that completely glosses over the fact that many people are living in poverty in Columbia Heights.

    But it would also be just as accurate as what she wrote, because I picked and chose who I spoke to. There are many, many people whose lives have improved from the development.

    There are two sides to every story. She presented only one, and made it sound like things are as bad as ever for everyone, while a bunch of rich gentrifiers gleefully play around them.

    That is just plain false, wrong, and painting that picture does nobody any good. I have no idea what her motivation for that article is, but how does it help anyone? What is she trying to convince us of?

    It's not reporting, it's just ugly.

  8. I am not going to defend the article it was basically crap. However, that does not mean the points made don't deserve some investigation.

    Development has improve things, but we have always had a Giant to walk to and a discount store Woolworth. There was more to the redevelopment of CH than new retail amenities.

    Tubman field is improved, but it took fighting to make that happen. Many of the benefits and improves of the development have been high jacked. We are not as safe was we should be because of this. So of our civic priorities are out of wack.

    We have made great progress, but something is clear not right. Blaming so called "yuppies" is dumb as is blaming other so called subgroups.


  9. I would say some of the "not right" parts are national-level concerns that are beyond the District's ability to address. For example, the culture of glorified violence. And the free flow of cheap high powered weaponry made possible by years of NRA lobbying. Even if the District has gun control, there is free flow of arms in the states all around DC. Legal sales feed the illegal arms pipeline, and the presence of these weapons greatly multiplies the impact of crime.


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