Southeast Tennis Program Tries to Avert Eviction
Lawyers for former D.C. first lady Cora Masters Barry and officials with the Recreation Wish List Committee have now filed papers for the committee to become a registered D.C. corporation, in an effort to prevent the organization from being evicted from the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center.
Robin Eve-Jasper, director of the D.C. Office of Real Property, last week served Barry a 30-day "Notice to Vacate" the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center that she built a decade ago because the organization had allowed its charter as a registered corporation to expire.
"By filing the appropriate documents, it is the committee's hope that Mayor [Adrian] Fenty, and other city officials, will immediately rescind the order, paving the way for
the RWLC to continue to provide services for the children and families of
Ward 8," Barry said in a statement.
The Tennis and Learning Center, on Mississippi Avenue in Congress Heights, is one of the city's premier recreation facilities and is primarily funded and operated by the Department of Parks and Recreation.
A spokesman for the mayor had no comment on the action yesterday, but D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles said that even if the Wish List filed the paper work, it would be too late to rescind the eviction. "They have no legal status" in the city because their registration was revoked, he said.
While A Scott Bolden, the lawyer for the Wish List said, filed the necessary paper work, he said in an interview Tuesday that it is the city that has broken the terms of the lease agreement. "In the lease agreement between the Wish List and the city, it specifically indicates that if the corporate status lapses, the Wish List committee gets 30 days to cure that defect and we were not given the chance to do that. We cured it in less than 24 hours in a good faith move," he said.
"We believe that our corporate status is really a non-issue in this situation and it begs the question as to what is the real issue here," Bolden said. "The government in 2006 signed an agreement indicating that they wanted to be our partners until 2016. It is hard to understand why they would walk away from this successful partnership now."
Last month the D.C. Government signed a new agreement with the United States Tennis Association to expand the opportunities for District youth to learn tennis. Barry said her organization was not part of that effort even though the Southeast tennis center has indoor and outdoor courts.
The city's action has sparked an outcry from parents and children who use the facility. Tennis champions Venus and Serena Williams have also jumped into the fray in support of Barry, who is a friend of their family.
"It would be tragic to see the Recreation Wish List Committee kicked out of the Southeast Tennis and Learning Center, a building which exists because of the vision of Mrs. Cora Masters Barry, and of the hard work and dedication of many others, because of a paperwork mistake," Serena and Venus Williams said in a statement.
"We were there when the Center was opened, and have returned many times since...It is our hope that Mayor Fenty understands the critical need the RWLC is serving, and we are confident that he will resolve this issue as quickly as possible."
-- Hamil R. Harris
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