Petula Dvorak’s July 8 Metro column, “A food bank opened on a swank D.C. block. It’s about to be shut down.,” implied that Van Ness residents pushed for a food bank to be closed because of their selfish desire to drive out lower-income neighbors. The property is owned by the University of the District of Columbia (UDC), which also owns several buildings near the Van Ness-UDC Metro stop. I don’t think there has been public outcry against the food pantry. Many neighbors actively contribute to (and use) it.
UDC seems to have done little to fill the retail space in its buildings or to use the buildings at all. The empty storefronts leave the neighborhood looking abandoned. That doesn’t make UDC a good neighbor or a good steward of D.C. resources. Its retail space should be bringing in revenue to support the school or be used to house school activities. Instead, in recent weeks, we hear that the food bank is being evicted and a local restaurant tenant closed, after reporting a drastic rent increase and unwillingness by the school to agree to a long-term lease.
The fact that the neighborhood is not a food desert is certainly one of the reasons that the new residents quoted in the article like living there. The pricey stores Ms. Dvorak alluded to have a different landlord and have been active in the neighborhood for decades.
It was unnecessary to attack both the long-term and newer residents of the Van Ness neighborhood.
Heidi Markovitz, Washington