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Blogger of the Month: Prince of Petworth

Dan Silverman is a food explorer, a neighborhood busy body, a one-man Crime Watch brigade, a curious guy with a camera and a blog. Silverman, a 32-year-old homeland security consultant who has lived in the fast-changing Northwest Washington neighborhood of Petworth since 2003, is the Prince of Petworth. And now he's our Blogger of the Month (first in a series).

Silverman's chronicle of life in a once-Jewish, then-black, and now very mixed area that still features outdoor drug markets even as it vies to become the cutting-edge pizza capital of the city is a witty, adventuresome and reporting-rich voice embraced by old-timers and newcomers alike.

Petworth has spawned an impressive bunch of blogs. Prince of Petworth and Petworth News , Bill Crandall's excellent and newsy guide to "All the news within walking distance," are probably the most prominent among them. Both sites tell the stories of an area of about 55,000 people where barely a week goes by without some new eatery, watering hole, residential project or planning debate popping up. Petworth News is, well, newsier, and PofP is most definitely chattier, like its author.

I met Silverman, a bit paradoxically, at Columbia Heights Coffee, one of the great new neighborhood hangouts, even if it is slightly over the border from Petworth proper. Naturally, we riffed on the differences between the two neighborhoods. "Columbia Heights is more viscerally anti-development," Silverman said. "In Petworth, [activist and neighborhood commissioner] Joe Martin, Petworth News and Prince of Petworth work hard to make inclusion a priority, including the old homeowners in issues and discussions."

Tensions persist between longtime residents and newcomers, as in any rapidly gentrifying urban area, but Petworth has a slew of folks who work to bridge the divide. Silverman decorates his blog with photos of the most cheery and impressive gardens in front of rowhouses, and he celebrates eateries that cater to a mixed crowd of oldtimers and newbies.

When Silverman moved to Petworth after five years in Woodley Park, he knew nothing about the place he was buying into. He knew only that he liked the house. Silverman says he was only the second white person to move onto his block, but he reached out to neighbors and loved the porch culture of hanging out that has persisted in Petworth even in these atomized times. Silverman is an unusually outgoing gent--he says hello and introduces himself to everyone on his daily walks around the neighborhood, even to the drug dealers. And as people responded to his introductions, Silverman decided to share the neighborliness on a blog.

"I was boring my girl friend to tears with all my observations about the area," he says. So last November, as the campaign for a special election for a Ward 4 council member to succeed now-Mayor Adrian Fenty was gearing up, Silverman annointed himself prince. (The name was something of an accident: He happened to leave a phone message for someone one day on which he ID'd himself as the Prince of Petworth, and there it was.) He interviewed all the candidates and posted in-depth pieces about them. Within six months, he had 400 readers a day. He posts nearly every day and the blog has evolved into a diary of a neighborhood's hopes and troubles.

"If I don't know what to post, I go for a walk," says Silverman, who estimates he puts about ten hours a week into his blog. He interviews shop owners, amateur gardeners, anyone he happens upon. And nearly everyone is happy to be featured on the blog (on more than one occasion, Silverman's chats with front-yard gardeners have won him gifts of some very nice tomatoes.)

Realtors recommend PofP to people who are considering a move to Petworth. Politicians cite it as one of the city's must-read neighborhood blogs. Silverman has a good eye for detail (if you like commercial signs and murals, he's your man), a cheerful but not overly boosterish style, and a passion to make the place where he lives better. That's why he's Raw Fisher's Blogger of the Month. Next month: what's sprung up in MoCo? (Nominations for future explorations of local bloggers are always welcome. And please check out the Post's new local blog directory for a gateway to lots of bloggers in your neighborhood.)

By Marc Fisher |  October 19, 2007; 7:25 AM ET
Previous: Kicked to the Curb: Soccer Stadium Blues | Next: Let's Play Know Your Political Parties

Comments

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Hey Marc, I like the concept, how about this:
http://rethinkcollegepark.net/blog/

Posted by: Jesse | October 19, 2007 9:25 AM

if you like reading blogs about fences, gardens, carrying slapjacks in the metro, and chasing a car down full of grown men for littering, I guess a certain blog in Petworth is for you.

Posted by: UMMM | October 19, 2007 10:14 AM

I recommend Dan Reed's blog "Just up the Pike" http://www.justupthepike.com/ , as the bumper sticker says " Columbia Pike not the one in Rockville: a blog for East Montgomery County." We in the east county (I'm in Burtonsville) too often find ourselves treated as a rural back-water (though the housing out here goes for just as much as the rest of moco). Anyway, Dan's an excellent and tireless advocate for the rest of us. I nominate him for blogger of the month.

Posted by: Jeff | October 19, 2007 10:22 AM

Who self appoints himself Prince? Dan Silverman. Who blogs about the bad things that black people do in his neighborhood? Dan Silverman. Who is not witty, and wants white males known as hipsters (and in his opinion) to move into Petworth to speed up the gentrification process? Dan Silverman. Coffee shops, and book stores do not build neighborhoods. This guy is a nobody and scars gentrification by pitting black people vs. white people, and how white people can make the neighborhood better. Great job on stroke his ego, Fisher.

Posted by: What a joke | October 19, 2007 11:30 AM

What a Joke, are you serious? If anything, Dan has created a bridge between black and white, new and old. He's created a forum where people speak freely about the neighborhood issues.

Posted by: Joke's on you | October 19, 2007 11:46 AM

As one of Prince of Petworth's 400 daily readers, I just want to say congrats on a job well done. Dan Silverman works hard at maintaing the blog, is entertaining, informative, shares relevent info, and deserves this credit. If only every neighborhood in DC could be so lucky.

Posted by: Dago | October 19, 2007 12:13 PM

The Prince of Petworth is a great open forum and has also become a way for lots of people in the neighborhood to meet each other...really a great addition. Congrats!

Posted by: PoP Fan | October 19, 2007 12:21 PM

The Prince seems like an okay feller, but the people who comment on his website are sick, twisted, idiots.

Posted by: Oden | October 19, 2007 1:17 PM

Wow, PoP is racist now? The Joker sounds like one of the hyper-sensitive nut-jobs who pollute the various Petworth listserves. Maybe it would serve him/her good to actually read the blog.

In fact, it could be argued that PoP's content on his blog is overly-focused on the authenticity of Petworh (read: black families, black institutions, urban culture).

PoP is a daily read for me because I want to know what's happening in my area, and often the discussions that pop up in the comments shed light on community disagreements that we can all learn from.

Posted by: Markus V. | October 19, 2007 1:28 PM

I've read the blog and all it is, is a bunch of rants on how black people litter the neighborhood, how they buy cars beyond their means, and how white people can make the neighborhood better. And gardens, and fences. You guys are pathetic.

Posted by: What a Joke | October 19, 2007 1:32 PM

what were the demographics for the people that came to his coming out party? It looks like everyone was white, in their 20's to 30's. i rest my case. you guys can keep stroking your egos or whatever else it is you stroke each other with, but seriously it makes the neighborhood look like a joke.

Posted by: what a joke part II | October 19, 2007 1:35 PM

"Look like a joke?" Yeah, like the littering and open drug traffic don't look bad at all. Good to see you have your priorities straight:

1) Complain about whitey.
2) Whine about changes.

Somewhere around #500 comes "give a crap about the neighborhood".

Take a look in the mirror: black folk that constantly complain about the white folk moving in are the navel-gazing, selfish ones that could care less about changing things for the better. Why not confront a drug dealer instead of a newcomer? Meanwhile you manage to sound EXACTLY like your white predecessors in the neighborhood did 50 years ago before the fled to the 'burbs.

YOU ARE THE JOKE.

Posted by: It ain't no joke... | October 19, 2007 1:51 PM

So blogging about doors, fences, and male hipsters that are seen in the area is what "makes a neighborhood"? Who gets giddy about seeing a guy in an army hat with a messenger bag wearing girl jeans? The Prince of Petworth.

The name and self appointment is gayer than a bag full of rainbows. Blogging about litter and crime does nothing for the neighborhood. How about GOING OUT AND DOING SOMETHING ABOUT IT instead of whining behind a computer screen and then bragging about how many hits you get on your interweb page? The few of you that do read the blog makes all the rest of the white people that live in the neighborhood look bad.

Kudos.

Posted by: What a JOKE | October 19, 2007 2:06 PM

Jokey joke, it sounds like you want your yard to be unkempt and/or concrete, filled with potato chip bags, and bordered by a chain link fence.

Awesome -- there are a bunch of neighborhoods like that in DC, but Petworth is moving beyond that. Maybe you'd feel more at home someplace dirtier, less colorful, and more homogeneous.

Posted by: ^^^^PWNAGE^^^^^^ | October 19, 2007 2:10 PM

First of all, What a JOKE, it's "gayer than a HANDbag full or rainbows."

Second of all, I remember sweating my ass off on a 90 degree day in July as part of a community cleanup of the alley behind my house. Some apparently racist white gentrifying blogger was pushing the brooms and cleaning nastiness up along with the rest of us.

Posted by: First of all, | October 19, 2007 2:13 PM

Pwn? That was a weak attempt. Quite laughable.

No. I'm actually active in my part of the community, I don't hide behind a computer and write about things I'm scared to do, and pat myself on the back when I have five comments. Blogging about why people have two hummers in Petworth, and why people spit at you in your neighborhood isn't going to make it better. "hey i wrote a blog today, and I feel good about myself!"

good luck with your pathetic little lives.

Posted by: Again. Joke | October 19, 2007 2:16 PM

Why don't people just read the blog and make their minds up for themselves. It sounds like this is just one guy ranting.

Posted by: Obvious | October 19, 2007 2:17 PM

so you did one clean up. did you pat yourself on the back? you're one of those people that volunteer once a year around thanksgiving and think you're making a difference. how about doing it every week, then come back and tell everyone how cool you are.

Posted by: What a joke.. | October 19, 2007 2:18 PM

Yeah Petworth residents sure "did something" about crime over the last 20 years, i.e. watched helplessly as it spiraled out of control and reacted with "no snitching". Despite irrational people like yourself, any elderly resident of Petworth will quickly say it's better now. Because it is, faggy pants and all.

Posted by: The Facts Hurt | October 19, 2007 2:27 PM

wow. someone in the comments here is angry today. did your mama not change your diaper this morning, jokey?

Posted by: corbett | October 19, 2007 2:49 PM

I'm sad to see a celebration of what's good in neighbourhoods - guys like Dan who celebrate where others would snark - has itself fallen into an outright flame war.

This thread does not do PoP justice. As a fellow blogger in Petworth, even if I blog from local to global, I am humbled by Dan's work and happy that Marc has praised him.

Both men do the city proud all over the Internets.

Posted by: Wayan | October 19, 2007 4:30 PM

I've been a big PoP fan from the start, he does a great job. What A Joke doesn't like PoP and all that he represents, ok. Whatever. But why shift the balance of this thread towards combating such resentment? Joke has made clear his opinion, let it go.

Posted by: Bill | October 19, 2007 5:21 PM

I've never heard of the "neighborhood" of Petworth. However, if this neighborhood has 55,000 people in it, that's 10% of the entire city of Washington, D.C.!!! Moreover, if it really has 55,000 people in it, I wouldn't call it a neighborhood anymore. It's way too big for that. Maybe a region of D.C. or a section, but not a neighborhood. Sorry, but "neighborhoods" should really only apply to areas in which one could walk around and hit the whole area within, say, 30 minutes (maybe a little longer if you have to deal with crossing at traffic lights).

Do you see what I'm saying, Marc?

Posted by: Ryan | October 19, 2007 6:54 PM

I've never heard of the "neighborhood" of Petworth. However, if this neighborhood has 55,000 people in it, that's 10% of the entire city of Washington, D.C.!!! Moreover, if it really has 55,000 people in it, I wouldn't call it a neighborhood anymore. It's way too big for that. Maybe a region of D.C. or a section, but not a neighborhood. Sorry, but "neighborhoods" should really only apply to areas in which one could walk around and hit the whole area within, say, 30 minutes (maybe a little longer if you have to deal with crossing at traffic lights).

Do you see what I'm saying, Marc?

Posted by: Ryan | October 19, 2007 6:56 PM

Oh, by the way, according to Wikipedia, there are roughly 125 or so neighborhoods in D.C., including Petworth.

Posted by: Ryan | October 19, 2007 6:57 PM

Ryan,

Maybe you need to get out a bit more. Petworth is a nightbourhood, and I can walk it in 30 minutes, saying "hi" to many people I know.

Posted by: Wayan | October 20, 2007 10:35 AM

Prince of Petworth is doing amazing work, every day, at celebrating the neighborhood, bridging divides, and highlighting problems that deserve attention.

It's quite sad that some jokers in the community, by contrast, can only summon their resentfulness and bitterness.

But there is no doubting the influence of blogs like PofP: they garner the attention of city officials, mainstream media and the community at large. That's something that too many elected officials and city agencies have failed to do for decades. If PofP awakens 400 people daily with information about their neighborhood, and rallies some to write their councilmember, or join a neighborhood cleanup, then that's far more than the whiners and jokers have accomplished.

Posted by: J | October 20, 2007 12:40 PM

To the posters complaining about how PoP just sits behind his computer whining but not doing - I live on the other side of the alley from him and you know what? Action does speak louder than words. He helped get the word out about an alley clean-up and he was right out there, in the muck and the grime, cleaning up old leaves, the loads of trash left by the dumptrucks and alley-goers, and was pleasant as pie the entire time. He's a good neighbor and we're lucky to have him.

Posted by: Lindsay | October 20, 2007 1:51 PM

WHAT A JOKE CAN EAT A BIG FAT D**K. EASY E CAN EAT A BIG FAT D**K...

Posted by: Dr Dre | October 20, 2007 7:41 PM

I think Marc's description of the blog and blogger as witty is a bit generous. I took someone's advice and went on the blog to read some entries. Marc says that the blogger is someone who "bridges the divide." I am not sure if I agree. Looks like he is the official blogger for the "newcomers." I have to agree with some commenters who point out that he kind of walks around the neighborhood, criticizing. Just because the living conditions are worse than where we come from, does not give us the right to impose our opinion willy nilly or to impose our will. What happened to respect and humility? Where are the blogs not about the latest condo development or "eatery," but rather about community development, about what's going on with someone who's been there for more than 10 years? I mean this is a neighborhood where three generations of people live. Let's show some respect.

Posted by: NW Calendar | October 21, 2007 9:47 AM

The blog has no redeeming value whatsoever. For the lemmings that think that setting up one alley cleanup justifies the blogger doing something good for the neighborhood?

The blog is not witty, to be honest, his attempt at claiming to put Petworth on the map and making it a better place is far from the truth. Just because you blog doesn't mean you're good at it. For the poster that blogs as well and is putting the "prince" up on a pedestal; you must be a horrible blogger. Seriously, what credentials do you have to say that he is a great and amazing blogger?

Anyone with common sense can see the blog complains about the black residents that live in the neighborhood. Houses, doors, fences, gardens, trash, new "hip" retail stores are the recurring theme. That doesn't help the neighborhood.

If you're telling me that blogging solves issues on the local, state, and national level, WOW, why don't we all blog about fixing a problem instead of actually doing something to fix the problem? Then we could have 400 bloggers and all of our issues will be solved!

I've read his blog and I read it on a regular basis, not because it is good, but to forward to my friends on the next stupid thing he's going to do. It's a trainwreck waiting to happen. What's sad is that Marc Fisher succumbed to the "prince"'s a** kissing and featured him in last week's feature. I lost a lot of respect for you, Marc, there's no proof this joker gets 400 unique visitors a day, I could say my blog gets 1,000 hits a day, but hits are different from unique vistors and unique pages visited.

I live in the neighborhood and I'm embarrassed to have the prince represent what the neighborhood is. It makes everyone that has moved in to this neighbhorhood the last year or two look really, really stupid.

Posted by: Sven | October 21, 2007 7:47 PM

At least he is able to communicate in English, Sven. I'd like say more about your comments but I've lost my "Raving Moron to English" dictionary.

Secondly it is very, very interesting that all you and some of the other critics take from the blog is that it puts down blacks. Beyond the fact that this is factually incorrect, I think it is very telling that this is what you are tuned to. Sensitive for a reason, no? If you don't like black people Sven, you just can't get beyond your self-hate for being white, and the ridiculous compensation you exhibit here, why not move somewhere where it won't be such a problem for you? Like Virginia.

It's a blog, you gibbering ass, not anything more or less. And the neighborhood does have people who have moved in recently that are problems, people like YOU who are self-satisfied, self-appointed moral crusaders -- with nothing to crusade for and nothing, at all, to say.

Posted by: Prog54 | October 22, 2007 10:25 AM

NW Calendar, I have a title deed that says I can impose my will. Can I tell you how dumb people like you sound when you suggest humility in the face of decay and crime? Yeah, humility would really help the older residents of Petworth a lot -- in the past it's helped them to be dominated by thugs and criminals. I also think it is very interesting to see self-hating white liberals cry about the fate of the old-timers having not spoken to a one of them. On my block there are a dozen old-timers who are glad to see someone who fixed an abandoned row house and ran off the drug thugs from the alley. You guess that the oldtimers hate the new folks, but that's a guess that makes you look stupid to them and everyone else.

If you think for one minute that the law abiding folk that have suffered in Petworth for the last 30 years are sad to see the positive changes there you are fooling yourself and obviously haven't talked to one of them. Why not be a good neighbor and ask them if they prefer drug dealers and hoodlums to new businesses?

Posted by: Prog54 | October 22, 2007 10:41 AM

I also like to take pictures of male hipsters when they are not looking to put them on the interweb. It makes the neighborhood look better!

Posted by: Prog54 | October 22, 2007 10:56 AM

Whatever Joke, why with all the transparent homoerotic curiosity about white boys? You looking for tail? Why so afraid to post under your Joke of an alias? Got nothing more to say in response to the truth about Petworth, huh?

Yeah, Petworth was finally making it, what with the abandoned houses starting to really take off, the drug traffic and record burglaries, and then those white devils came in and opened businesses. What a shame.

Oh, and then there's that darn blog! That blog is the worst of all! So much worse than beatings by packs of thugs at the metro, old ladies getting their purses snatched on the way to the store, aimless kids selling dope to crackheads. Nope, the that is nothing compared to the evils of white folk and their blogs.

Get. A. Life.

Posted by: TheRealProg54 | October 22, 2007 1:30 PM

I think people are pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty

pretty angry

Posted by: WEL | October 22, 2007 1:57 PM

I love the poeple who are so offended by the PoP blog that they know minutia about stuff that was posted months ago.

If you really don't like it, don't read it. There are a million websites on the internet -- go read something you enjoy.

Posted by: Markus | October 22, 2007 2:38 PM

Markus darling - I love you too. But tiny point? If you are going to be critical of the blog, isn't it better to have at least read it?

Posted by: Aurelius | October 22, 2007 7:45 PM

why wouldn't you want to read about the whitest person you know that chases a car with four big black men in it for littering. that's not witty. that's just stupid. funny thing is, he writes a blog to clean one alley and everyone thinks he's saved the city. great job "Prince!"

Posted by: cause the guy is an idiot | October 24, 2007 11:54 AM

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