A Tenleytown Miracle

Last Thursday, neighbors from all over Tenleytown worked together open up paths and make walking safe and easy again.

tenleytown shovel

We ended up focusing on the streetcorners, which had become less passable with every visit by the plows. The delay of one day had allowed most owners and businesses to clear their sidewalks, but the hardening slush in the streets was still tripping people up. So, at Albemarle and Wisconsin, we cleared and widened the busy crosswalks with shovels and a garden edger.  We spread out along Wisconsin Avenue, clearing sidewalks to the south and opening up more crosswalks in the north. We even put down some salt and sand provided by the local Ace hardware store. After a few hours, we ended by clearing a few spots on River Road and bypassing a monumental pile at Albemarle and Fort Drive.

We capped the afternoon’s work at the local Mexican restaurant, where, as one participant described it, “Guapo’s cleaned up.” The snowball fight never went down, due to low interest from participants. However, the news media were interested in us. The Northwest Current sent out a reporter, who stopped by WAMU to pick up audio equipment. You can hear her handiwork here, or read it on Page 1 of the February 17th issue of the current. I think everyone was glad to get the recognition. Residents for the most part expressed gratefulness – and a little delight – at the gumption of my co-shovelers.

tenleytown shovel 2
Side-shoveling around ice.

I got a lot of credit for proposing the idea, but the whole event would have been ineffectual without the work of the dozen-or-so people who came out: Ben Nieva, Mike Sires, Steve Kelley, Athan Manuel, Angie Das, Hedda Garland, Felix Garland, Jenny McCarthy and Chris Frantz. ANC 3E Chairman Jon Bender deserves special thanks for his work organizing the group. I know there are a few individuals who aren’t listed above, but deserve attention. If you are or know one, please post the name in the comments.

Of course,  some other people deserve attention for their lack of effort. Snow on most sidewalks that were busy simply condensed into packs of ice, so we ended up not clearing most. But some businesses, perhaps abandoned by their landlords, did not do their duty. Neisha Thai and several other establishments south of the Metro stood out. Circle Management left their construction site next to the metro uncleared, while they or their tenants fulfilled the responsibility on the rest of their properties. The Georgetown Day School shoveled its 42nd Street Sidewalks well enough, but its long stretch of sidewalk on River Road was left completely untouched. Finally, the National Park Service proved the worst offender, shoveling none of their many properties around Tenleytown.

But while other people let down their neighbors, it was reassuring to see so many people out on a snow day, helping each other out. Everyone came away knowing the others a little better as well.

Snow, negligence, and community

lazy gym

The past few days, I’ve been bothered by the failure of this Gold’s Gym at 4310 Connecticut Avenue. Although they shoveled a path from the Van Ness metro to their door, they decided to not shovel any further. The path is used heavily by pedestrians of all age groups. Lingering there for about five minutes, I saw around ten people falter and otherwise walk delicately.They were lazy during the first SnOMG, and they’ll probably be lazy and negligent this time around. UPDATED BELOW

Perhaps what is most infuriating is that the building exclusively employs fit and strong people, who can clearly see the havoc they’re wreaking right out of the huge plate glass window in front. Hell, all the people trying to get fit through absolutely non-productive activities could be getting exercise and simultaneously preventing negligence. It is, after all, illegal to not shovel your walk:

“It shall be the duty of every person, partnership, corporation, joint-stock company, or syndicate in charge or control of any building or lot of land within the fire limits of the District of Columbia, fronting or abutting on a paved sidewalk, whether as owner, tenant, occupant, lessee, or otherwise, within the first 8 hours of daylight after the ceasing to fall of any snow or sleet, to remove and clear away, or cause to be removed and cleared away, such snow or sleet from so much of said sidewalk as is in front of or abuts on said building or lot of land.” (D.C. Code § 9-601)

But that’s not good enough if scofflaws just get fined weeks from now. People could get injured, and people sure are getting inconvenienced. But residents should have recourse besides whining to the government or bitching on listservs. I think we can take the cleanup and retribution into our own hands.

So, I’m organizing the First Tenleytown Volunteer Snow Removal Battalion.The plan is to form a band of husky citizens to clear off snow from spaces that suffer from negligence or the tragedy of the commons. We’ll counter common neglect with community action.  We will primarily clear the mounds of plowed snow at street corners and bus stops, but we will also remediate careless private plowing and people who don’t plow at all. Call me altruistic if you want but I intend to share the businesses that don’t shovel or plow right into pedestrian areas on this blog.  I hope to punish them with a boycott, which could cost more than any fine ever would.

We’re going to meet up tomorrow afternoon at 4PM at the Tenleytown Metro station.  ANC overlord Jon Bender has made it into a snowball fight as well, so uh, come for the fun and stay for the hard labor. Bring a shovel and a flask if you care. There’s no reason fun can’t have a good social outcome.

If you want more details, my rant and the followup posts are linked here.

Update: Tuesday afternoon, Gold’s Gym finally cleared their snow, sources say, after a neighborhood woman tore the manager a new one. Because the snow had been compacted, a bevy of strapping young men were witnessed chiseling the brownish ice apart. Sources report that they “felt the burn.” Many thanks to the woman. Hopefully Gold’s will not let this happen again.

Reno Park Update 091212A: Finding Activity

Okay, so I mentioned in the last post that neighborhoods, as conventionally defined, are not necessarily the best ways of measuring human activity, and so is the difficult concept of community. However I attempt to define such a thing, it’s going to be imprecise, subjective, and doubtful. But most people can recognize  community when they see it. Likewise, when you look a good space, you can tell because of the people there.

Last year, when I was but beginning my job as an apparatchik of the цarьchitect, I quoted Freddy N. in On The Geneology of Morals:

Only owing to the seduction of language (and the fundamental errors of reason petrified within it) which conceives all effects as conditioned by something that causes effects, by a “subject,” can it appear otherwise. For just as the popular mind separates the lighting from its flash and takes the latter for an action, for the operation of a subject called lightning, so popular morality also separates strength from expressions of strength, as if there were an neutral substratum behind the strong man, which was free to express strength or not to do so. But there is no such substratum, there is no being behind doing, effecting, becoming; “the doer” is merely the fiction added to the deed – the deed is everything.

Now, replace “strength” with “community.” Community is, in essence, an act. It is not merely your sheer propinquity to another human meatbag, nor crude ethnic similarities, it is the action to do like others, to help the person nearby, to talk to them, to smile at the man on the street when he says hello. Community, is an cooperative action between people, in the conscious and subconscious, of coming together and working for each other’s values. Why one might associate with one another, and care for them is a wholly different question. But it is relatively easy to see evidence of community, just as it is possible to see evidence of social activity.