What Infrastructure?

Thoughts Post Sandy

First, for all those who are or with loved ones (as we pray for our friend Pierre in Hoboken) still suffering in SuperStorm Sandy’s aftermath, we wish you strength and health. If there’s anything we can do, please contact us directly.

A tree downed by the storm. The neighbors say this was a healthy tree, until a rogue construction truck struck it and shattered the trunk.

One thing certain after an event like this is that pundits/blowhards will shove each other into the gutter to be the first to bloviate on what happened, how this is bad (duh) and why thus-and-such political haircut was right/wrong on Sandy. From our little perspective in a tiny corner that suffered only minor cable outages and a few (sad) fallen trees on U Street we say SHUT UP. If anyone was seriously concerned about all this, we would have heard discussions over the last few years about infrastructure, global climate change, economic investment and a host of other issues. We haven’t, so please just shut your pie holes now and just help your fellow citizens.

While I’m snug and warm writing this, a good friend is trapped in a building in Hoboken, surrounded by water and disaster. I don’t know how he is, as his last text was a request to stop texting as he needs to preserve what batteries his phone has for the disaster crews.  Ugh.

We’re reminded how fortunate we are to live in this little corner of the District, once more. In 2003, I was living in a basement apartment when Isabel hit. We had sandbagged the entrances, and at the height of the storm the doors blew open and wouldn’t shut. Power never went out. Now living in a modest house on Wallach (where we just learned the skylight isn’t sealed but just resting on the roof by its weight) we again experienced a few hours of ominous winds and cable outages. But our drilling in the “back yard” and our block’s scrupulous cleaning of the gutters prevented any flooding. Like I said: lucky.

We clearly do not live in a Cadillac neighborhood, and increasingly the rest of our nation doesn’t, either. We float on a belief that everything will always work, but fail to invest in the tangible things that actually make it work…and ignore these questions as we pursue greater development at any cost.

As we’ve said (h8trs go look at this post or just go away, you bore us) smart development is more than just planning for increased density – it’s looking at, planning for and working with the basic infrastructure and service delivery options of any community. Questions: is our cabling in the district – much of it underground – in good repair, and able to deliver the ever-increasing amount of juice needed by an expanding population? Are our sewers and pipes capable of delivering what’s necessary to ensure sanitary conditions? Can our streets handle the necessary traffic a modern population demands? How many new laptops can we add to an area before the electrical grid groans and flickers off?

We blithely carry on with our lives – new development or not – without ever giving a moment’s thoughts to all the stuff that allows us to live as well as we do. That infrastructure doesn’t just happen, and isn’t just magically maintained. Without even a single new resident, it demands attention to shore up and improve.

I’m disappointed nationally, and locally, how little attention anyone pays to this. Media, advocates, candidates – mostly what we’re hearing is zippo, as we whistle past the graveyard.

So New Rule: from now on, anytime anyone proposes how wonderful it is to add thousands of new residents within a small spot in the District, they’ll also have to address how – specifically – our infrastructure can absorb it all, or what measures they would propose to make sure that it does. Because it matters.

Again, anyone in need, please contact us and we’ll do what we can.



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2 responses to “What Infrastructure?

  1. Pat

    New Rule? What others “have” to say? Respectfully, no one has ordained you (or Wallach Place) to set the rules of discourse or debate or to dictate what others in the neighborhood “have to address”. Such phrases (and tone) are inconsistent with your professed interest in “getting to yes”.

    In any event, that the U Street Corridor is gaining “thousands of new residents” over the next few years only tells half the story It also LOST thousands of residents in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s. It’s simply not a given that what’s in place can’t support a lot more people, because there was a time before you moved here when there was, in fact, a lot more people.

    • Doug

      Pat…except you’re wrong. This is one tiny little blog, which I’m flattered you read. But as such, I get to set the rules. Not for the neighborhood, but this wee little spot. Can’t handle that? Start your own unread blog.
      I’m not setting rules for the neighborhood. If you think I have that power, then you don’t know squat. Oh, and don’t lecture me about population loss…and I’m speaking directly to you, who have said you moved here recently as an empty nest couple. Talk to me and my partner about what this neighborhood looked like in 1989, and then we can talk.
      And no, getting to yes doesn’t mean I have to accept lies, distortions
      and smears.

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