Monday, March 28, 2011

COPs 2.0

If, like me, you missed the December edition of Mayor Euille Today on Alexandria's Comcast channel, you missed the story of one of the many innovative things that the Community Oriented Police (COPs) are doing in our neighborhood to help drive crime to their lowest levels in 40 years

While gangs use graffiti to launch threats against rival gangs and to demarcate turf, in general, graffiti is a nuisance that advertises neglect.  It shows that folks don't care.  But graffiti on playgrounds, in particular, is just sad. It ruins the investment that we have put into trying to make safe places for kids to play.  Parents get scared off, kids don't get exercise...maybe even don't get to go outside...and our open spaces are in effect turned over to illicit activities.


I know the folks in Humes Springs, Lynhaven, Warwick Village and all over have done endless, thankless work trying to maintain these safe havens for kids and often it seems like an uphill battle.  The work done by the COPs in Sector 2 is for all of us a breath of fresh air.  Safe, cost effective, environmental friendly...so much more you can say.  Saving resources and saving kids. That's a good days work for little reward.


Here's the story from the Winter 2011 Issue of the APD Newsletter, The Police Beat: 

Officers Strive to Reduce Graffiti Throughout Alexandria

While patrolling their beat, Officers Nicholas Ruggiero and Matthew Kramarik noticed that graffiti was all too common among the traffic signs and playgrounds in the Hume Springs community. They submitted a request to have the graffiti removed through the City's Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities. Unfortunately, they discovered that there was a long waiting period to have graffiti removed after a request was filed. Due to budget cuts, the Graffiti Removal Team had been absorbed into the Regular Maintenance Team for the City. With no team dedicated to graffiti removal, the time between submitting a report and having the graffiti removed significantly increased. 
Officers Ruggiero and Kramarik decided to research the procedures that big cities use for graffiti removal. Through their research the officers found a company called Graffiti Removal, Inc. The officers contacted the company president to inquire about their graffiti removal products. Through this conversation, the company sent the officers a packet to test the product. The packet contained samples of the product, videos and all supplies necessary to remove graffiti from all test surfaces. 
Hopeful but skeptical, Officers Ruggiero and Kramarik went to Hume Springs to test out the products. The first test they conducted was on a No Parking sign that was covered in graffiti and was scheduled to be replaced by the City. Amazingly, the graffiti removal product removed every trace of graffiti from the sign. The sign looked brand new and, as a result, no longer needs to be replaced. The officers continued to test the product throughout the Hume Springs area. They were able to remove graffiti from surfaces throughout the community, including the playground at Cora Kelly Elementary School. 
Impressed by the graffiti removal product, Officers Ruggiero and Kramarik presented the product and its effectiveness in cleaning up the community at Hume Springs next civic association meeting. The civic association immediately agreed to buy more supplies to continue improving the neighborhood. 
The cost for the City to repair the graffiti damage in the Hume Springs area would have been $6,823.00. The supplies, purchased by the Hume Springs Civic Association, cost $12 and allowed the residents to clean up the graffiti that had plagued their community. With the community now graffiti free, residents were inspired to further beautify their community. On November 6, residents got together to plant new plants and mulch areas throughout the neighborhood. In addition, there have been no new graffiti marks or destruction of property complaints since the initial graffiti removal on September 3.


Alexandria City C.O.P.S. unit conducting a graffiti clean up. This video shows that with community involvement and partnership with the police department that graffiti can be removed and deter offenders from repeating.


UPDATE:  Because of the tremendous interest, the episode of Mayor Euille Today featuring the interview with these officers is now available to view on the City website.  Go here and look for the December 21st show.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Kind ACTions in Arlandria

Tracy Viselli describes ACTion Alexandria -- a new, community-based website that matches potential donors with the needs of local non-profits and other community organizations -- as a technology-aided barn raising.

In this NBC4 news report, see how ACTion Alexandria has helped neighbors come to the aid of other neighbors in conjunction with Arlandria service providers.

View more videos at: http://www.nbcwashington.com.



Kind ACTions in Alexandria | NBC Washington

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Clean Up 4MR, Clean up the Potomac: April 9th (Correction)

SAVE THE DATE:
23rd Annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup
Four Mile Run Park, Saturday, April 9, 9:00 am – 12 pm

The City of Alexandria is seeking volunteers to participate in the 23rd Annual Potomac Watershed Cleanup and join others across the region to clean up local streams and the Potomac River Watershed.

The cleanup will take place on Saturday, April 9th from 9:00am to 12 noon, with the City hosting three locations along Four Mile Run:
  1. 3700 Commonwealth Avenue in Four Mile Run Park
  2. Four Mile Run at Mt. Vernon Ave
  3. Eaton Square Clubhouse at 801 Four Mile Rd.
Trash and litter have many negative impacts on our quality of life. Trash is harmful to wildlife and the environment, and it is an eyesore that impairs the beauty of neighborhoods and decreases property value. Cleaning up and removal of litter also costs local governments funds that could be better used elsewhere.

To volunteer at one of the City’s sites, please contact Jesse Maines at jesse.maines@alexandriava.gov.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Arlandrian News Round-up: "Random Acts of Greeness" Edition

Stream Cleanups. By the time the kids from Earthforce got done their clean-up of Four Mile Run Park last summer as part of their community service project, the results were astounding. In little over an hour, there lay in one big pile, a clump of 30 gallon trash bags, all mostly full. The thing was: it didn't look that bad when they started. Other groups had been through the park all summer and it had never looked better....well, at least not in the last decade. And yet, just a few weeks later, another clean-up organized by Clark Mercer turned up piles of more trash. It's a constant struggle.

I asked the Earthforce kids what they thought was needed to keep some folks from having to continuously clean up after other folks. I suggested more trash cans. They suggested more police patrols and security cameras. All I know is that the winter hasn't been kind to the Four Mile Run. Without nice weather to bring volunteers out, the trash and debris is depressingly back. In the long-run, the restoration of the stream will help make the stream clean-up easier, but until then...without some intervening force to keep the litter out of the stream...only Earthforce and their army of helpers can keep the stream alive.


Dirty Roads? Meanwhile, the Alexandria Gazette Packet reports (Trashy Citizens) that Councilwoman Del Pepper "has a few words for the Virginia Department of Transportation: Clean up your mess." Ms. Pepper is upset that VDOT, the party responsible for the I-395 is being lax at keeping it clean.

 "Cigarette butts are everywhere. Empty soda bottles dot the side of the road. Fast food wrappers can be seen here and there....The councilwoman said she heard from one constituent who went out there to do VDOT’s dirty work by picking up trash — 'every dead animal,' said Pepper, praising workers who have begun addressing trash on property they are not responsible for maintaining."

Just a question: who's responsible for the parks and streets and streams? There's quite a bit of litter there. Let's find out and get them to help us keep our neighborhood clean, too. Someone should ask.

Report a Problem. The City has been quietly rolling out a new issue reporting system on their website: alexandriava.gov. If you go to their main page and click "Report a Problem" on the upper right, you'll find a nifty new GIS-based system that not only allows you to help locate the problem on a map, it also offers you the ability to upload supporting documents or pictures and retains the request for you under you account so you can check back later to see the results.  I tried it out last week when I reported some broken street lights and I captured what the screen looks like when you're done.


State Your Priorities. The Partnership for a Healthier Alexandria is collaborating wtih ACT for Alexandria and Virginia Tech to develop a better way to inform key decisions in Alexandria – through “quality of life indicators.” Quality of life indicators are the answers to the question, “What matters most to the people who live in Alexandria?”

To vote for the indicators in this category, you must register on ACTion Alexandria and then you'll have a total of 10 votes to assign in each indicator category, while assigning those votes to as many or as few indicators in each category as you like. Your votes will be collected and combined with feedback from two Speak Up! Take ACTion! townhall meetings and summarized on ACTion Alexandria by the sponsoring organizations on April 18th. For more information on how the Quality of Life Indicators project, visit Community Health Assessment of MAPP.

Go Green Alexandria. Check out the website for the new non-proift: Go Green Alexandria. Their mission is to educate residents about their impact on the environment, to advocate for the conservation of Alexandria's environmental resources and a clean and sustainable community and to encourage green living practices wherever possible.

Climate Change.  The City of Alexandria's Environmental Policy Commissionand Office of Environmental Quality invite members of the public to attend two upcoming meetings about climate change. Take part in the City's Eco-City Alexandria initiative, learn more about the science of climate change and its impacts on the City, and give feedback on the City’s draft Energy and Climate Change Action Plan.
  • Tuesday, March 15th, 7:30 pm-9:30 pm – Alexandria City Hall, Room 2000, Climate Change Science: The Basics, and Latest Research Findings
  • Saturday, March 26h, 9:30 am-12:30 pm – Polk Elementary School, Multi-purpose Room, 5000 Polk Avenue, Alexandria, VA, Open House: Alexandria’s Draft Energy and Climate Change Action Plan
For more information on Eco-City Alexandria, visit http://www.alexandriava.gov/eco-city

Alexandria Spring Clean-up. Spring Clean Up is available to City curbside solid waste and refuse customers. All businesses and residential customers who receive private refuse collection will not receive Spring Clean Up services. Place materials at the curb (no alley pick up) before 7am on your assigned collection day (March 26th for east of Mt Vernon Avenue, April 2nd for west of Mt Vernon Ave. Separate items into four piles: Reusable items, Metal items, Electronics, and Refuse. Unacceptable items include concrete, hazardous waste, unbundled brush, loose yard waste, and building materials. For additional information and updates regarding Spring Clean Up, donation, or reuse opportunities, visit: alexandriava.gov/SolidWaste or call 703.746.4410. And consider donating or reusing items before setting them out on the curb.  A local reuse directory is available at alexandriava.gov/Recycling

GreenMail.  The local Post Office is trying out electric vehicles over the next year. Two different models have been spotted on our neighborhood streets. Carriers say that they mostly work well, but there are some ups and downs. Some of the hills are hard and one of the trucks can only go 25MPH. 

Crystal City Potomac Yard Transitway Public Meeting. Arlington County is planning transit improvements in the Crystal City Potomac Yard (CCPY) Corridor, including a bus-only transitway, station stops, frequent bus service, and passenger amenities. The goal of the project is to provide high-capacity and high-quality transit service to residents, businesses, and visitors in this fast developing corridor. A public meeting will be held Wednesday, March 16, to provide an update on the Crystal City Potomac Yard bus transitway project. We are particularly seeking community input on the prototypical design of transitway stations in Crystal City. Feel free to stop by the session at any time. Wednesday, March 16, 4:30-8:00 p.m., Aurora Hills Community Center, 735 18th Street South, Arlington, VA 22202


PY Metro Update. The Del Ray Patch has an update on the progress of the Environmental Impact Study on Potomac Yard Metro Station (Metro Station Concerns Center on the Environment - Del Ray, VA Patch)
For those interested in learning more about the project, see www.potomacyardmetro.com. The site will be updated as the project moves along. People can e-mail comments on the project to:  comments@potomacyardmetro.com. The deadline to submit comments is Mar. 15. 


Arlandria in Song. Alexandrian Dave Grohl and his band Foo Fighters have gone from mentioning Arlandria in a song ("Headwires") to writing a song entitled "Arlandria" on their forthcoming album in April (here in this YouTube video is an early performance).  While not entirely sure what Dave is singing about, he seems pretty mad about that litter in Four Mile Run, too. 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

4MRMarket Report: "Watch this Space" Edition

The Four Mile Run Farmers and Artisans Market has a lot of exciting news for the upcoming 2011 season, set to begin on the first Sunday in April (April 3rd). 

Last season was a great start. While there were ups and downs, and Sundays seemed to have bad luck with weather (how can every Saturday be so nice and every Sunday be either rainy or boiling?), last year was just the start of the snowball headed down the mountain. This year, there is a LOT coming to the market that will make the market stronger, more attractive to customers, and more inclusive for the everyone in the community.

The big news:

  • 4MRMarket has been certified to become the first farmers market in Alexandria to accepting SNAP/EBT (food stamps) for qualified purchases. The market has also partnered with INOVA Alexandria Hospital and the Alexandria Health Department to all participants to receive double dollars to spend at the market. This effectively makes the market half as expensive for participants in the program! Produce, seafood, meat, dairy, and breads, and most items for home consumption are the basic eligible items, but you can find a full list by clicking here.
  • The 4MR Community Building (aka the old Duron Paint store) will be renovated for community use by early in the season, providing bathrooms, market storage, and a much better aesthetic to the market!
  • The entire site, from the community building northward to Four Mile Run, will be completely remade into a hardscaped, landscaped, and colorful park, starting this summer!
Other news:

New improvements coming to the 4MR Park
We've been hard at work at 4MRMarket, but not as hard as a group of award-winning, volunteer architects called Architects Anonymous that has helped the community to form and embrace these changes. Please read this article in The Arlandrian to find out more about these changes to the market space.

Credit Cards to be accepted at 4MRMarket
As a convenient bonus, the SNAP/EBT card readers will all for the market to accept Credit Card payments for all vendors, as well.

Market Meeting and Site Prep
Stay tuned for upcoming dates for a market meeitng. We will also be spending some time at the site doing some prep work and volunteers are welcome to meet us then too.

Volunteer Oppurtunities
4MRMarket needs help.  We are looking for folks willing to volunteer to manage and book the community events and performance tents.  We are also looking for folks to help man the electronic purchases machine and, as always, folks to help us set up and break down each week.  Please contact us at: 4mrm@arlandria.org

MORE TO COME!
We expect a lot of excitement this year at 4MRMarket: music, events, park improvements and whole lot of good stuff to buy.

Watch this space.


_______________

The Four Mile Run Farmers and Artisans Market (Alexandria, Virginia 22305) brings fresh, nutritious food to people of all income levels, provide an opportunity for local artisans and producers of goods to bring their wares to market, strive to reflect the diversity of the community, and improve the quality of life for Arlandria residents and visitors. It is part of an overall vision to expand and improve Four Mile Run park and the surrounding neighborhood.

4MRMarket is open every Sunday from 8am until 1pm from April through October in Four Mile Run Park at 4109 Mt Vernon Avenue, Alexandria. 


For more info see: http://www.4mrmarket.org/
Or contact us at: 4mrm@arlandria.org

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

New Designs on Four Mile Run Park Expansion

Architects Anonymous strike again.

The intrepid group of area architects has combined forces once more to unleash yet another great set of plans to revive the dormant goal to expand Four Mile Run Park along Mt. Vernon Avenue.

You may recall Architects Anonymous from their last Arlandria effort, where they developed a very promising and award winning plan for the parcels of newly acquired open space (4109 Mt. Vernon Ave).  Those became the inspiration first for the Four Mile Run Farmers and Artisans Market, and then for saving the old Duron Paint store building for community use, which is set to begin construction this month.

The group continued to refine plans based on community input to create a dynamic outdoor space that acts as a gateway to the City. The architects and City staff have diligently reached out to the community over the months, vetting the plans during a design charrette, then with the Arlandria Plan Implementation Group, the Four Mile Run Restoration Task Force and the City's Parks and Rec Commission. The plans have met with universal support, and feedback has been incorporated into all that's going forward.

As conceived, the now vacant lots along Mt Vernon Avenue will be transformed into an vibrant community space. As part of the plan, the Four Mile Run Farmers' Market will continue to occupy approximately the same footprint, with opportunities to expand northward on the site as it grows.  The plans incorporate rain gardens, new landscaping, and a number of dynamic elements that can be cheaply and easily altered over time, such as painted pavement and colorful banners.

A portion of the funds to complete the work are now available thanks to a February 17th vote by the Arlandria Plan Implementation Group. The vote allocated the $200,000 left over from the Arlandria Plan Capital Improvement Program (CIP) budget towards the first of two phases to complete the park expansion.  The CIP funds come from the long idle plan to bring streetscape improvements and amenities to Mt Vernon Avenue, but which remained unspent since most improvements were deemed infeasible without redevelopment of the large properties. Looking to get the best bang for the buck on a low hanging fruit project, the community rallied behind funding what they could. The $200,000 will cover at least the hard scaping portion of the park expansion plan, which should be underway by this Summer. Phase two largely consists of landscaping, plantings, and other volunteer labor accessible and less costly amenities. With further volunteer and community support (that means you, readers!) and the sweat equity demonstrated with the rehab of the old Duron building and at the 4MRMarket site, phase two could be accomplished by the end of the year

Architects Anonymous has put a lot into this project on the basis that they see with community support so much could be done for so little.  They have really drawn inspiration for specific elements of other nearby projects to turn these empty parking lots into a real park. Simple installations, such as banners and temporary shade structures, as seen in Rosslyn, have instantly revived vacant lots into usable and inviting space.  Here are a few of the ideas they hope to bring in:

To manage run-off and utilize current site topography, a rain garden would be installed in the low lying area between the pavement and the soccer field.

Existing berms can be augmented with rock outcroppings to create viewing areas for soccer games and other community events.

Painted pavement will help turn boring asphalt into a colorful and engaging space.

Banners will bring color but can also reflect community diversity, events, and define the space.

It's an exciting time in Arlandria and around Four Mile Run. There's plenty more news from over the winter about all of the revitalization efforts. Watch this space.

Del Ray Meet-and-Greet


The 10th Annual Del Ray Citizens Association Meet-n-Greet will be held the evening of Monday, March 14th, in the cafeteria of the George Washington Middle School

At the Meet-n-Greet, new (and old) neighbors can get acquainted with City agencies and programs, with neighborhood organizations and services and with each other. Everyone will have a chance to find new ways to get more involved in the community, Art on the Avenue and others. 

Confirmed guests include:
  • Alexandria Fire
  • Sheriff's Office
  • Real Estate Assessments
  • Alexandria Local-Motion
  • VA Department of Health
  • Del Ray Business Association
  • Del Ray Artisans
Take note: The Meet-n-Greet isn’t just for “newbies” any more. Find out what’s new and on the horizon in the neighborhood in the Developers' Corner, which has become a regular part of the Meet-n-Greet experience. With the help of City’s Department of Planning & Zoning we expect to have designs and/or models for a number of the development projects in our area including:
  • Potomac Yard
  • The Calvert project
  • Waterfront  Small Area Plan
  • Projects afoot for Arlandria
Please make a point to join your neighbors at DRCA's 10th Annual Meet-n-Greet:
Date: Monday, March 14, 2011
Special Time:
 7:00 – 9 p.m.

Special Place:
 George Washington Middle School Cafeteria, 1005 Mt Vernon Avenue

Plenty of parking behind school

Bring a neighbor, bring your questions, bring your community spirit and please join us!

Childcare and light refreshments will be provided!

Wednesday, March 02, 2011