U Street Residents Not Enjoying Gentrification They Helped Create

The noise can be bad, but what about the crowds?

WASHINGTON -- Apparently some of the people helping to gentrify the U Street Corridor weren't aware of what that does to a neighborhood.

More people are complaining about the noise in the neighborhood as more restaurants, bars and clubs open up, The Washington Post reported. Somewhat disturbingly, many of the complainants are residents who moved to the area to be part of the revitalization, not the longtime residents getting gentrified out of the neighborhood, destined to wind up in the Atlas District in Northeast where they will go through the whole thing again in five to 10 years when the young yuppies have destroyed the strip once known as Black Broadway and set their sights on a new, "edgy" victim.

Yeah, it's getting noisier along the corridor, but what else would one expect?

A few doors below U, in the English basements (Realtor-speak for over-priced, half-underground hovels), a soft rumble of crowd chatter is evident if you focus on it. And at 2 a.m. -- 3 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday -- pockets of suddenly boisterous laughter and flirting can be heard from groups traipsing down side streets after last call toward their strategically -- and tightly -- parked cars for their drunken drives home. But otherwise, the noise pollution isn't any worse than most urban areas.

But right on U, the noise apparently is rising up and pounding on the windows of the new, expensive condominiums.

Spend a couple of hours on the corridor on a Thursday, Friday and Saturday and you'll hear "Don't Stop Believing" a half dozen times, as well as the horrid sing-alongs that accompany it. And ever since Michael Jackson died you can't even walk the block on a Tuesday without hearing the same 10 or so of his hits blaring from the bars and the cars.

Lemmings, all.

And what about the crowds? These days the fastest way to get from Solly's U Street Tavern on the corner of 11th and U to Polly's Café on U between 13th and 14th is not a straight line but a friggin' circle. Take 11th down to T Street, which has terrific prospects for petty crime; hang a right; take T to 14th; then head back up to U; and turn back toward 11th, heading for the middle of the block. It's easier and less-maddening than attempting to navigate the crowds on the sidewalks -- the slow-moving packs of potential date-rape victims in paint-tight black pants (and their leering stalkers) and the malingering groups of smokers and clubbers who can't commit to stepping inside any particular establishment.

Of course, those crowds of pedestrians are accompanied by busier traffic, which also means more noise, because the motorist's No. 1 weapon against standstill traffic remains the horn, which is about as effective as trying to slay a dragon with a Wiffle Ball bat.

So what do these sleepless new residents want? Stricter enforcement of noise laws. Not a bad idea. They exist for a reason, after all.

But we fear a revolution against the patios. At least a reduction in their hours. We fear being forced back inside those dank, sweaty rooms in the middle of D.C.'s long hot-and-sticky.

How about this instead? Eliminate the complainants. Cast them out of the neighborhood. Raze the condos plaguing the corridor. If we get rid of enough of them, maybe we'll find it quieter and roomier again.

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