Greenleaf Leaders Protests Housing Authority's Policy of Structural Violence
Southwest Voice March 2022 Issue
My name is Patricia Bishop. I am a native Washingtonian and the President of the Greenleaf Midrise Apartments, a public housing community at 203 N St in Southwest, DC. I am a senior and disabled. The recent decision of the Housing Authority to remove the Build First commitment is a betrayal. Greenleaf leadership and residents will not accept this. Build First was one of the first things to be honored. The Housing Authority has violated the Build First agreement.
Back in 2013 before I was elected as President, I was participating in the meetings about Greenleaf gentrification plans. The Housing Authority and the director at the time Adrianne Todman began meeting with residents and asking for input on the proposed redevelopment. They said that they wanted to work with us. They wanted to honor our wishes and to address our concerns, especially involving no displacement. Residents and the Southwest community did not want Greenleaf residents to be displaced. This was a priority in our discussion and decision. As the years passed and the Housing Authority had a new director, Tyrone Garrett, discussions with residents were ongoing. We received assurances that previous commitments would be honored. We placed our faith in Mr. Garret, his administration, DC Council, and the mayor to secure Build First for the three Greenleaf properties. Build First represented a plan that was important for several reasons. We did not want “more of the same ole, same ole”. We were very aware that the Housing Authority had displaced tenants for many years and that those residents never returned to the redevelopment property. They gave the developers the opportunity to build market rate housing. Barry Farms, Park Morton, Capitol View Plaza, and Arthur Cappers are examples of displacement and are part of the Housing Authority’s poor record. Build First involves first constructing a building near the affected property, then moving residents temporarily, as the property is redeveloped. This ensures that families and communities are not torn apart, do not lose social support, and access to health resources and other amenities.
Now, the Housing Authority wants to make us Greenleaf yet another community that will experience displacement. Actually, we are already experiencing displacement even though the redevelopment plan has not been finalized and approved. Throughout the planning process, one of the main reasons why the community got behind the redevelopment was because of Build First. All along “Build First” was all that the Housing Authority and public officials talked about. The Housing Authority asked for development teams to submit applications for Greenleaf that would honor Build First. The current DCHA director acknowledges that “Build First” was a requirement in the application. There were several teams that were willing to do Build First, but they were not chosen. How the final development team was chosen is a mystery. That final development team did not have site control for any Build First site. By site control, I mean that the formal development team did not own any property in Southwest that could have been used for a Build First site. There was no written agreement between the supposed site and the final development team. After nearly seven years of being told that Greenleaf would receive Build First, the Executive Director of DC Housing Authority said on March 1 of this year that Build First was not going to happen.
I believe in John Lewis’ call to get into “good trouble”. I believe in Dr. King’s message that “The time is always right to do what is right.” When DCHA Director Brenda Donald told the Greenleaf leadership that Build First was not going to happen, that proved to us how sneaky and conniving the Housing Authority is. The development team was chosen out of the blue as far as I am concerned. Because that team could not meet the requirement of Build First, their selection raises both ethical and legal questions. We know that a whistleblower has alleged that the redevelopment was tainted. By tainted I mean that there were potential federal procurement violations. We suspect that there was retaliation. We suspect that there was favoritism. Plain and simple, the promise of Build First was a bait and switch. This is our lives and our families’ lives that are at stake. Let’s stop all of this retaliation and injustice against anyone who lives in public housing to better someone else’s pocket.
In my official capacity as the duly elected President of the Greenleaf Midrise and member of the Greenleaf Redevelopment Resident Advisory Board, I am asking the Housing Authority Board to put Build First back on the table – no “ifs,” “ands,” or “buts” and to honor all other wishes of the resident leadership to promote racial equity.
President, Greenleaf Midrise Resident Council
aka “Good Trouble”