Plans for a permanent memorial to the victims of the 2009 Metro train crash near the site of the accident are running into trouble because nearby neighbors say they do not want it there.
The South Manor Neighborhood Association, representing about 70 homes adjacent to the area off New Hampshire and South Dakota avenues in Northeast D.C., "strongly" opposes the creation of a memorial nearby. The neighborhood association held a vote and sent letters to the mayor, their councilmember and their neighborhood commissioner about their concerns -- including a fear that it will exacerbate an existing problem of kids having sex outdoors.
"We have no animosity toward the families. They've suffered. We understand that," said Alison Brooks, the neighborhood association's secretary. "But these are places we call home, in my case for 10 years, for some people, 20, 30, 40 years."
The District is seeking proposals from artists and architects to build a $1 million memorial that includes seating, artwork and a play area along the Metro tracks where one Red Line train slammed into another on June 22, 2009, killing nine people and injuring an estimated 80 more. Victims' families have sought a memorial park, unhappy with the plaque that Metro posted at the Fort Totten Metro station to mark the second anniversary of the crash.
But the neighborhood was not told of the memorial plans until last week, Brooks said. Residents fear they will have no input into what will happen to the space they now use for biannual block parties, impromptu picnics and golf practice.
Neighbors worry about noise, traffic and parking caused by construction of the memorial, then subsequent visitors. They are concerned about a loss of privacy.
And finally, they are concerned about a potential increase in crime at the site from having more foot traffic to the area. Brooks said the neighborhood already has a problem with school kids having sex there. Adding benches would make it worse, she said.
"How would they feel if they have benches dedicated to their families and then they have kids lying across them having sex?" Brooks asked.
Tony Robinson, a spokesman for the City Administrator's Office, said the site is not a done deal yet. "We are at step one and a half of a 20-step process," he said.
Perhaps, he acknowledged, the call for artists should not have been so specific to name the site, though it is the location the victims' families prefer. But he said the city could move the project to another site.
Yet Robinson added that the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission loved the idea. And he said the proposed lighting, fencing and landscaping could allay the neighbors' fears.