The Menace of Ping Pong, The Horror of a Bench
The threats to peaceful living along a quiet stretch of Connecticut Avenue NW just keep on coming.
First, as I reported earlier this month, an advisory neighborhood commissioner went after a pizza place that dared to put a ping pong table out on the sidewalk for families to enjoy. Now that same commissioner, Frank Winstead, a man with a special passion for policing violations of public space, has managed to get rid of the benches and patio table that had been outside Marvelous Market for a decade.
Winstead, who has not returned calls or emails seeking comment, emailed the D.C. government a few weeks ago to rat out the shop for having the outdoor seating without a city permit.
"Unfortunately, when we get a complaint, we have to follow-up," says Jeffrey Jennings, the District's Ward 3 transportation planner. "It is clear that this is mere additional frivolous hassling by Commissioner Winstead. Marvelous does not have a public space permit but he could simply approach the management and kindly request for them to work through the [city] channels to accomplish the small task of obtaining one."
In the 10 years that the seating was available outside the bakery and snack shop, no one complained, says Neil Neufeld, chief operating officer for the 10-store local chain. But within days after Winstead's complaint, city inspectors came by and told Marvelous Market's managers to take in the patio furniture. They did.
"We have more than 200 signatures from people in the neighborhood who want us to keep the seating out there," Neufeld says. The shop is now seeking a permit to put the seating back outside, a process that could take several months.
"It's a place to sit and get a cup of coffee," Neufeld says. "We're happy to go ahead and try to do the right thing. If you live in D.C. long enough, you know you just do as you're told."
Jennings says the vitality of street life in upper Northwest is hampered by the presence of local activists like Winstead who are "just waiting for the gotcha moment."
So in the past few weeks alone, the stretch of Connecticut Avenue from Fessenden Street to Nebraska Avenue has gone from a Ping Pong table, chairs and tables, and a steady supply of pedestrians hanging out and keeping a watch over the area to a barren, unpeopled streetscape, thanks to the zeal of a self-appointed monitor of the public space.
Does this story really have to end this way?
By Marc Fisher |
May 23, 2008; 7:57 AM ET
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