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Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Down On The Corner

It's not every day that the City Paper writes a cover story about your (former) next-door neighbors. And the subject of my very first blog entry of susbtance, written back in June 2002.

I lived next to 1701 Euclid for nearly seven years, so I lived through this story. I attended some of the meetings they talk about in the article.

I can tell you that they're horrible neighbors. They left trash everywhere, and the people who hung around their stoop helped turn the corner into a landfill most weekends. Their house, until they felt the heat described in this article, was notably in poor condition, and while this was not uncommon to Euclid Street when I first moved next door, with the passing years the dilapidated condition of 1701 and 1703 stuck out more and more, and only in my final few months there did anything change. I have to admit that I didn't particularly like the way people would just sit on the steps to the townhouse where I was living for hours at a time, playing cards or dice and drinking, and didn't feel terribly empowered to do much about it.
Though the Bennetts (particularly after they exiled Lonny) were generally not the people that were doing this, the hangers-on would feel less comfortable if they were gone.

To make a long story short...you wouldn't want to live next door to them. And ultimately, I decided, for a number of different reasons, I was better off somewhere else.

That the Bennetts are certainly far from the ideal neighbor from the perspective of most new Adams-Morgan residents doesn't change the fact that everything I wrote in 2002, in part defending them from the slings and arrows hurled at them by David Buie and his fellow property owners, Councilman Graham, and the various functionaries at the U.S. Attorney's Office, is still true today. Though no one should have to live next door to the open air drug market that has at time existed at 17th & Euclid, nor are some of the Euclid Streeters necessarily entitled to dictate to the few remaining longtime residents (the Bennets are the most prominent such residents, though they are not the only ones) what the neighborhood will henceforth "look like." Adams-Morgan is not a quiet neighborhood, nor is it a particularly quaint one. There are a lot of neighborhoods in the metro area like that, including several in the District, many of which aren't any pricier than Adams-Morgan is now, or even was back in 1997.

Plus, as I pointed out back in 2002, if you're a tenant there's something of a beneficial side effect. They probably saved me a few grand on rent, since people with the kind of money it would normally take to live in Adams-Morgan generally wanted no part of that corner. There was a half-faded grafitti sign that said "R.I.P. Whites" on a house across the street from where I lived, but I barely noticed it was there after a few months.

There's definitely a culture clash going on, as the Bennetts are a holdout, emblematic of what the neighborhood was decades ago, before the area effectively died, and was subsequently reborn as a trendy urban enclave. They are besieged. A family has worked hard to buy themselves a house and now the speculators have descended upon the corner and they know that if they can shove the last few holdouts aside, they can really clean up, and I wouldn't bet against them, the way things are going.

Legendary labor leader Saul Alinsky once cynically defined an "integrated neighborhood" as "a neighborhood between the time when the first black family moves in and when the last white family moves out." It appears that we are seeing the reverse on Euclid Street.


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