Mike Silverstein: Working Together for the Common Good

Volunteering at the S Street Dog Park

Working Together on Transportation

20th and 21st Street Protected Bike Lane

The District Department of Transportation (DDOT), as part of their master plan for alternative transportation, proposed creating a protected bicycle lane on 21st Street from Florida Avenue down to the National Mall. The lane would have gone through a residential neighborhood and resulted in the loss of more than 100 residential parking spaces. Parts of the proposed path – between P Street and New Hampshire Ave – are already blocked for much of the day by double-parked trash trucks and delivery trucks waiting to use an antiquated and overworked alley system. 

Some neighbors were strongly opposed to the proposal, which they felt was unworkable, unsafe, and would take away already scarce parking spaces. 

Neighbors who want to bike need a safe path north from the National Mall into the Dupont Circle area.

The stage was set for a prolonged fight, which would benefit no one.

Working together with our neighbors in the Foggy Bottom ANC, we approached DDOT and put forward an alternative, using 20th Street. It would result in loss of only six residential spaces, and create fewer problems with trash trucks and deliveries. 

DDOT agreed to put our 20th Street proposal on the table as an alternative to 21st Street, and the Foggy Bottom ANC passed a resolution favoring 20th Street for the portion of the protected bike lane going through their ANC.

So when the matter came before the Dupont Circle ANC, there was an alternative to

21st Street. It had already been supported by Foggy Bottom ANC and DDOT said it would be given full consideration.

More than fifty ANC 2B residents who opposed the 21st Street proposal had an alternative to support – and they spoke up in favor of the 20th Street alternative. Their voices were heard, loud and clear.

Even though it meant the loss of six parking spaces in front of my building, I proposed the 20th Street alternative as ANC 2B’s choice, and it passed unanimously.

Working together, we sidestepped what would have been a long and bitter battle, and we have been able to fast track a project that will enhance the safety of bicyclists, scooter users, and the pedestrians who want to keep bikes and scooters off our sidewalks. 

That’s what working together is all about.

Working Together for Public Safety

Working together, we were able to stop an outbreak of porch piracy. We were also able to help the person involved get the treatment he needed to deal with his drug problem.

The porch pirate was working the area just north of the Circle, following FedEx and USPS trucks, and stealing packages left on front porches. Usually multiple packages each day. The head of a neighborhood listserv estimated that the pirate was stealing a thousand packages a year. 

He was arrested dozens of times, once personally by the Third District Commander. But getting the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the D.C. Court system to do anything about it was a challenge. 

When the porch pirate began stealing the medications that seniors were getting from OptumRX or Express Scripts, we had our chance.

We collected e-mails from victims and sent them to the victims’ advocate at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and also alerted the Washington Post and other local news outlets.

I was allowed to testify at the sentencing hearing on behalf of the neighborhood. The Judge said he spent a good part of the previous evening reading the email chains and he ruled that the porch pirate should be incarcerated, ordering that he undergo drug rehabilitation treatment while serving his sentence.

You can read the Washington Post’s coverage of the story here.

Working together, we got D.C.’s most prolific porch pirate off the streets and got him the help he needed to fight his drug problem.

Thanks to all those in our community to helped make this possible.

Working Together for Public Education

Eight years ago, DCPS announced plans to close Francis-Stevens Educational Campus, our neighborhood K-8 elementary school. It had 190 students in a building built for 480. 

Working together with Foggy Bottom ANC, Dupont Circle Citizens’ Association, Foggy Bottom Association, the Francis-Stevens HSA, and the DCPS, we were able to create a plan to rebrand FSEC as School Without Walls at Francis-Stevens, upgrade academics (Latin taught in primary grades, etc;), and build a deeper partnership with the neighborhood while maintaining a diverse student body.

Today, our neighborhood preK-8 school has an enrollment of 600, a waiting list of 800, and is serving students from all 8 wards. The school is now well  over capacity, and a renovation planned for 2022 will add new classroom space as part of a major upgrade.

For the past 8 years, I’ve been honored and delighted to serve as the neighborhood representative on the school’s leadership team. 

Working together with the SWW@FS community has been rewarding, and has brought some unexpected benefits to the community at large.

Working Together for the LGBT+ Community

When the pandemic hit, School Without Walls at Francis-Stevens went to distance learning and used the school building to provide day care for the children of healthcare workers. It provided them meals, and also was a feeding center where students and anyone else in the neighborhood could come and pick up a grab-and-go bag breakfast or lunch. There were always some extra lunches, as they didn’t want to turn anyone away.

In conversation with the school principal, he asked me if I could find use for the extras, since sandwiches don’t keep and some of the food needed microwaving. Rather than throw them out, could someone use them?

I contacted Casa Ruby, an LGBT+ community center that provides shelter for homeless teens and young adults and also has a drop-in center. They were happy to accept, as many of the restaurants who often provided them donations were closing during the shutdown.

Since April, we have driven a thousand miles back and forth to Georgia Avenue and provided a thousand meals that otherwise would have been discarded. 

Thanks to Molly and the others who have taken turns in delivering the meals!

Working Together for Seniors

In the middle of August, Principal Trogisch asked if I knew anyone who could use some fresh produce. The school’s Foodprints garden would soon be harvested, and, with no students on campus, who in the neighborhood might want some cucumbers, peppers, squash, and fresh herbs. 

Foodprints is a wonderful program, teaching nutrition, food preparation, and food safety. Students plant a garden in the spring, volunteers from the program tend the garden over summer vacation, students harvest when school resumes. The produce is taken to the demonstration kitchen, where they learn to prepare it under a teacher’s supervision. There are cameras and TV screens. It’s amazing.

But with no students returning in the fall, who in the neighborhood might appreciate fresh produce?

Dupont Circle Village is a neighborhood seniors-aging-in-place organization. Many members are limiting their shopping trips for health safety reasons. 

Friday morning has been special since mid-August. The Foodprints program director harvests what’s ripe in the morning, hands it off, and its delivered to recipients by one o’clock in the afternoon.

“I feel like I just won the lottery,” one neighbor e-mailed the Principal and the Foodprints program director.

There’s something special about a program designed for our elementary school kids being able to provide superfresh produce for neighbors old enough to be their grandparents or great-grandparents.

That’s what working together is all about.

Working Together at the Dog Park

We don’t have any committees at the S Street Dog Park. When we need to do some weeding or fixing up, we’ve always put up signs and posted a notice on the facebook page, and people show up, form a work group, and we get things done in no time.

Of course, the pandemic has put a stop to the work groups, but the signs and facebook notice have resulted in near 100% compliance with the Mayor’s face mask mandate, and our friends at Friendship Animal Hospital continue to provide us with thousands and thousands of poop bags each year. It’s a partnership that’s going on ten years!

Prepping food for delivery to Dupont area seniors at FoodPrints Garden at School Without Walls at Francis Stevens, August 28, 2020