Petworth’s New Hampshire Avenue Issue: Trees

What might you guess would be the hot button issue at the ANC 4C meeting last night? Could it be the murder in a Taylor Street alley? Or maybe working fire hydrants? Nope, the riveting moment of the night was trees. Specifically the planting of trees in this median of New Hampshire Avenue after the Georgia Aveune intersection is upgraded for safety:

In the middle of Muhammed Khalid’s “Traffic Safety Improvement for the Intersection of Georgia and New Hampshire Avenues” a local resident brought up her hot-button issue. It wasn’t the “pedestrian bumps” or the bus lane changes for Georgia Avuenue, it seems that she is opposed to the Department of Transportation planting trees in the finalized median of New Hampshire Avenue between Georgia Avenue and Grant Circle.

Her objection? Trees would be an unwelcome change that blocks her views. She lives on or near New Hampshire Avenue and wants to continue having an uninterrupted vista from Spring Street to Grant Circle.

When several other people voiced their support of tress, as a logical and welcomed way to beautify the street, reduce traffic noise and pollution, control storm water runoff, alleviate summer heat-effect, and even slow traffic, the original plaintiff whipped out her fall back position: seniority.

She asked why the ANC should bow to the wishes of newcomers, those who have not lived in Petworth for 20+ years like she had, apparently unaware of the idea of one person – one vote, without regard to age. I could not tell if that was a veiled comment about race, since she was African-American and the tree supporters we seemingly Caucasian, but there was definitely an us-them overtone.

The meeting then spiraled into a long, wandering debate where everything from trees growing into the Metrorail tunnel 20+ feet under the street to posing a safety hazard to drivers turning onto New Hampshire were raised, turning what was expected to be a great discussion around the very needed safety featured of the intersection remodeling, to a debate on the possible evils of tree cover in Washington DC.

While the slow, haphazard democratic process works its way through the DC government, I ask you, Metroblogging DC readers what you think:

  • Should there be trees in the New Hampshire Avenue median?
  • If so, why and if not, why not?

  • And should the decision be based on neighbourhood seniority or equal suffrage?


3 Comments so far

  1. Wayan (unregistered) on May 9th, 2007 @ 1:48 pm

    Ah, it seems I am not alone in being shocked that trees could be seen as evil. Petworth News is also in the discussion with a pro-tree post.

  2. drew (unregistered) on May 9th, 2007 @ 3:21 pm

    While I think they presented over-reactive and non-sensical reasons for NOT putting trees in the median, I think the real discomfort and objection is to *actual change* in Petworth. I think a lot of long-term residents are unhappy with new changes, renovations and quality-of-life improvements, as it possibly represents higher taxes and the feeling of being pushed out of the neighborhood they’ve lived in for so long. It’s certainly understandable. I’m sympathetic — and I think the trees will look phenomenal and are an easy way to improve quality of life in Petworth. The long-term residents have to realize that those who have moved here, whether four months ago or four years ago also care about the community, and aren’t looking to take over, but integrate and improve in cooperation with the entire community. Scary stuff, huh?

  3. joe (unregistered) on May 9th, 2007 @ 7:19 pm

    It seems to me that the same people who complain about neighborhood improvements are the same ones that let the neighborhood go to heck in the first place. Additionally, there are plenty of long time residents that support all the changes along Georgia Avenue and New Hampshire Avenue, don’t let anyone trick you into thinking that there aren’t.

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