YouthBuild/LAYC: Call for a voluntary agreement for the Cook School redevelopment

See this second 01/28/2011 message from Bloomingdale resident Angie Rodgers:

Call for A Voluntary Agreement for the Cook School Redevelopment

Since the December 10th DC Council public roundtable about the proposed redevelopment of the Cook School, YouthBuild and LAYC have been meeting with civic leaders to determine how we find common ground that would allow the program to move forward.  We have put a number of ideas on the table, and we continue to brainstorm. 

We understand and respect that some of these ideas may appear to be just chatter to those who want to see the development happen without the housing, and are unmoved by any proposal that doesn`t completely remove the housing.   There are several realities, though:

(1) redeveloping and operating a building of that size takes money, and the school portion of the project (YouthBuild) can`t do it on their own;

(2) even if YouthBuild could redevelop and operate the building on their own, the unique combination of education, job training and housing under one roof is a proven model that these two organizations want to replicate in the District.  Where this model has been implemented, 77 percent of the participants break the cycle of welfare dependence for the first time in their family`s histories. So these two organizations haven`t partnered because of money; they`ve partnered for the opportunity to make an impact; 

(3) YouthBuild and LAYC walking away and losing the roughly $1 million spent to develop the plans for Cook over the past year and a half is not like BP Oil losing a million in corporate profits.  These are two nonprofits who have struggled through the recession just like other nonprofits, and have competed fiercely for public and foundation dollars and fundraised privately to make the Cook School happen.  We have heard of references about moving the building to another community – Eckington, for example – and we are thankful to that welcome.  Unfortunately, it would take another million to move to that site in Eckington. Once again, there are no corporate profits for the two groups to dig into to make this happen; it would take more public and foundation dollars, taking needed resources away from other worthy causes.

Given these realities, we think it would be a real loss if, as a whole, we couldn`t reach some agreement.  We have put a number of compromises on the table, and we continue to brainstorm.    We would like to turn those ideas and others into a voluntary agreement between us and the neighborhood.  During a meeting earlier this month with ANC 5C Commissioners Pinkney and Bradley, we offered the following:

·        Reducing the number of youth in the housing by increasing the number of families

·        Advisory Board with community participation

·        LAYC AmeriCorps members & YBPCS students engagement in volunteer community improvement projects

·        Participation in affordable housing renovation in collaboration with housing developers (In Columbia Heights, LAYC bought houses along 15th Street and helped clean up that block)

·        Community Meeting Space

·        Community Arts activities & programming open to the community

·        Community Policing & Safety activities – ideas may include coordinating community safety walks, conducting a needs assessment via LAYC`s existing Street Outreach & Violence Prevention teams, deploying our anti-gang programs, etc.

·        LAYC Digital Connector program to support technology needs in the surrounding community

After that meeting, we continued to brainstorm and came up with the idea of YouthBuild and LAYC working to bring in resources for a public safety fund which could be used to re-do the pocket park at North Capitol and Florida, invest in existing neighborhood parks, and/or invest in new or ongoing safety programs.  Could we be helpful in any way in advancing the fight for speed bumps on P Street (which would help us as well if we move into Cook)?  Can we help with streetscape recommendations for the businesses along North Capitol Street?  These are things that we are asking, but we want to know whether others are looking at the possibilities of this partnership as well.  What can we get done in the neighborhood surrounding the Cook School?  We`ve said that we want to be partners, but we need your ideas as well.

As mentioned, we think that the result of these ideas should be a voluntary agreement.  If we can get a good exchange of ideas going on, perhaps we can move this discussion into an upcoming civic meeting (ANC or one of the associations) or plan a separate meeting.  Our sense at this point is that we need something concrete, like a voluntary agreement to hammer out, to move us forward; otherwise we will only continue to talk around each other.

Please post your ideas to the blogs/listservs; email us at project@jfcookschool.org; or stop us if you see us out canvassing the neighborhood.  We will come back to this space in a few days with a listing of all the ideas, and plans to move the conversation to some forum where we can discuss.

Angie Rodgers


4 thoughts on “YouthBuild/LAYC: Call for a voluntary agreement for the Cook School redevelopment

  1. Although your attempts (although at the last minute) are to move to a agreement on this debate are truly appreciated, it still does not change the fact of the neighorhood and this Ward’s continued objection to your proposed build. All of the items you listed SOUND good, but they are not reality once the kids move in and they neighborhood continues to get worse. This is not a good environment to put these kids in. If current events of the shooting on P St and at Fl and North Capital are not clear indicators that we are a neighorhood already under siege! If you are looking for support, you ARE NOT going to find it! NO ONE IN WARD 5 DONT WANTS YOU HERE! Find another neighborhood to destroy! This isnt just a singular opinion, but this voice represents a large group of residents. If anyone would like to be added to this group of residents, please email Ward5residentgroup@gmail.com to be added to the distribution.

  2. Ward 5 Resident, it is our intention that YouthBuild and LAYC be part of the solution for this neighborhood by reclaiming that vacant building and bringing lighting and security to that block. To ensure that the changes are lasting, we have offered to set up a community advisory board and a community safety fund, among other things.

  3. Angie
    Thank you for coming by to speak with me on Saturday. I did found it troubling, your comment that the local reps and others in the neighborhood have told people not to attend meetings where the LAYC/YB would be participating. I think if you look through just this blog you will find the exact opposite is true. As I also stated I think it is sad that your organization waiting until now when you are down to the wire to to do these neighborhood canvases and such.

    1. Thank you for putting that out there, RobinK. The participation on this blog and others is useful and earnest. We continue to hope that it carries over into people’s offline activities.

      We’ve done neighborhood canvasses on two other occasions besides this weekend, but it is clear to us that we probably should have done more, as many people still either don’t know about the proposed plans, or have misinformation about the plans. We’ve had a steady presence at community meetings, but we realize that we miss so many people who don’t come to meetings and don’t read the blogs/listservs.

      We will be out again, and will let the neighborhood know when we’re planning to come around.

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