WMATA: FEBRUARY 25TH, 2020 QUARTERLY BUS BARN MEETING
March 03, 2020 / Taalib-Din Uqdah obo/NBN-1-4 UBA
I truly wish our elected leaders – Mayor, CM – were spearheading this effort of removing these toxic buses, a body shop and a spray paint booth from our residential community, but they're not, and we're not sitting around waiting on them to do what our tax dollars pay them to do, we'll just see them at the polls. So like the former ANC/SMD Commissioner I've been and the social justice entrepreneur I am, I'm volunteering to keep us informed.
The Feb. 25th Quarterly Bus Barn meeting was a disappointment from start to finish.
1. No handouts, but turns out, according to Clark Construction, this was done so we wouldn't ask a lot of questions, like where is the bodyshop and spray paint booth? Answer: "It's right here (pointing), we'll identify it on the presentation before we post it on the website." They posted the presentation Monday evening, March 2nd (See Attachment), but it wasn't marked. You'll find it on Page 20, right behind the retail/commercial space, where WMATA hopes to have people shopping and dining. Look bottom left of the 2 columns, last bay;
2. Another hold your questions to the end moment or a write down on our "comment form and we'll get back to you" meeting, which became problematic after an 85-minute WMATA PowerPoint presentation at a 2-hour meeting, leaving 25 minutes for comments and questions;
3. Poorly noticed, poorly attended; 25 people, tops – the other (+/-) 25 were affiliated with the project in some capacity – no neighbors from the 1200 blocks of Buchanan/Allison, Iowa or Arkansas Avenues that I recognized, (just by example);
4. More deception – see page 8 – "Topics," where WMATA shows the "differences" between their "categorical exclusion" – what they're doing – compared to an Environmental Assessment – not the highest or best standard to use – an Environmental Impact Statement is and they know it. It’s what we’re asking for, a Statement, not an assessment; the difference being, a Statement will assess the cumulative impacts of WMATA's proposal upon their return to the newly constructed garage with 150 diesel-fueled buses – 75 of them accordion-style – a bodyshop and a spray paint booth (in an existing residential neighborhood), along with all other existing and reasonably foreseeable future development(s) nearby, like West EC and LAMB PCS, where our children are; baring in mind, in its 113+ year history, NO environmental anything has ever been done; and
5. I've saved the best for last: Never mind, I'll save it for the next meeting, just to catch them, once again, "sucking their thumb," trying to figure out how can they hold-off on exposing themselves to this one?
Please consider joining us in support of WMATA conducting an Environmental Impact Statement before returning to the bus garage with their toxic buses, a bodyshop and a spray paint booth. Don't forget the DOEE Budget Hearing Monday, March 30th, 11:00AM, Wilson Building, 1350 PA Ave., NW, Room #120. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 202-724-8062 to sign-up and testify.
Also, there will be an upcoming Large Tract Review (LTR) and a series of Historic Preservation hearings – Section 106/NEPA – that we will be attending; lots for you to know that you're not being told, but that's become my job because it's what I do, when nobody else will.
REMEMBER: “Power concedes nothing without demand; it never has and it never will.” – Frederick Douglass
“There's nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come.”
– French playwright Victor Hugo
COMMITTEE ON FACILITIES AND PROCUREMENT Chairperson Robert C White February 19, 2020
Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Oversight Hearing
Testimony of Farah Fosse, 1317 Decatur St NW, DC
Good afternoon Chairperson White and members of the committee,
My name is Farah Fosse and I live on the 1300 block of Decatur St NW, just behind WMATA’s Northern Bus Garage which is currently being demolished and will be rebuilt over the next four plus years.
I am here today on behalf of my family and neighbors to express our strong opposition to the return of 150 diesel buses, a body shop, and a spray paint booth in our residential neighborhood.
As a neighbor, I am happy to endure four plus years of construction to have this site cleaned up. The building dates back to 1906 as a streetcar barn and 1959 as a bus garage. As a WMATA official told us, ‘we don’t know what toxins are there, but we know they’re there and that there will be multiple hazards to remediate’. As a neighbor, I’m happy that it is going to be a LEAD Platnium building that will be healthier for the workers, and the neighborhood. And, when WMATA told us that the new garage would be fully equipped for electric buses, I was really optimistic.
However, there’s a huge catch. Though the garage will be equipped for electric buses, WMATA does not have a plan to buy electric buses. (I understand that WMATA has engaged a consult to study this but there is no commitment to electric and no timeline.)
I ride the bus. One of the reasons why I love my house - and even my extreme proximity to a currently toxic bus garage - is that I live near three really great bus lines. But, diesel buses are not the future. They are bad for our health, the environment, and they don’t make financial sense. I have a four-year-old with asthma, and my yard – the part closest to the bar garage, in particular - tested high for lead and other heavy metals.
We are asking for an Environmental Impact Statement, not just a study. WMATA and DDOE are using loopholes in the law to get out of doing a full statement but they could choose to do one. This has been a transportation site, feet from homes, for more than 100 years. We neighbors – as well as the people who work there - deserve to know what is found, how toxins are being remediated, and what the impact of continuing to have diesel buses, an autobody and spray shop would be.
We want your committee to look into moving the body shop and spray paint booth to a non-residential neighborhood.
And, most importantly, we want a commitment to go electric. According to a national study by the US PIRG, Environment America, and Frontier Group: Electric Buses in America, Lessons from Pioneering Clean Transportation, that was released in the fall the most important thing that cities can do is commit to a transition to electric buses with a specific timeline. As the report states, “these commitments will help grow the market, drive technological innovation, and enable transit agencies ... to gain the benefits of economies of scale in maintenance facilities, operational experience, and electricity pricing”. That timeline needs be 2024 so that we are ready when the Northern Bus Barn reopens. If not, then we may need to delay reopening the bus barn until the electric fleet is ready.
This is a commitment that will save WMATA and the District money in the long run but it more importantly means healthier communities right away. Not just for me and my neighbors but for anyone who lives along the bus lines. A new study just showed that improved air quality in schools can raise test scores as much as smaller class sizes. As of next year, there will be three elementary schools within 3 blocks of the bus barn along with a couple of daycares. This is just near the garage, not to mention the along the bus routes.
The report I cite above urges municipalities, “to Include environmental and health benefits ... in any evaluation of the costs and benefits of electric buses. Calculations of return on investment should include the total societal cost for the life cycle of an electric bus versus a diesel bus.” WMATA’s current plans around the bus garage and its fleet are currently totally divorced from the District’s commitment to healthy communities and the environment, including DC’s commitment to be carbon neutral by 2050.
The transition to electric buses could open other opportunities as well. WMATA has told us its not viable to create housing on top of an active bus barn but I wonder if it would be more viable with electric buses. This could certainly be worth exploring.
I have been attending all of the meetings with WMATA, DDOE, and other public officials but I don’t feel like we, as people very directly impacted, are getting the information that we need or have a real voice in this process. I would love to hear from your committee how we can better influence this process and if you, as our elected officials, will advocate for electric buses and for me and my neighbors.
Thank you for you time and I look forward to hearing from you.
COUNCIL OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
Committee on Facilities and Procurement
The Honorable At-Large Councilmember Robert C. White, Jr. Chair
The Honorable Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh
The Honorable Ward 7 Councilmember Vincent C. Gray
The Honorable At-Large Councilmember Elissa Silverman
PERFORMANCE OVERSIGHT HEARING
WASHINGTON METROPOLITAN AREA TRANSIT AUTHORITY
TAALIB-DIN ABDUL UQDAH, FOUNDER/EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
NORTHERN BUSBARN NEIGHBORS (NBN) / 14TH ST. UPTOWN BUSINESS ASSOC. (1-4 UBA)
Wednesday, February 19, 2020 @ 10:00 AM
John A. Wilson Building
DC City Council Chambers Room 500
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20004
NBN / 1-4 UBA
Good Morning Chairman White and members of the Facilities and Procurement Committee, my name is Taalib-Din Uqdah and I’m here to testify before you today with
respect to your oversight authority over WMATA, and more specifically, the razing and reconstruction of the Northern Division Bus Barn on 14th St., between Buchanan and Decatur, in Ward 4’s 16th St. Heights neighborhood.
I offer this testimony on behalf of Northern Busbarn Neighbors (NBN) and the 14th St. Uptown Business Association (1-4 UBA). We are a collaborative group, made up of community residents and business/commercial property owners located directly across the street from the garage, who came together to accomplish four (4) goals and one objective that we enumerate as follows – goals first:
To build capacity – organizing and rallying our neighborhood and the environmental/health communities around the risk of exposure to toxic conditions being thrust on us by WMATA, in a residential community;
To require WMATA to perform an Environmental Impact Statement;
To stop the return of 150 diesel-fueled buses – 75 of them articulated – a body shop and a spray paint booth to a residential neighborhood; and
The conditional return, to the facility, under written agreement that only an electrical bus fleet will be housed there.
Our one objective is: To live longer, healthier lives.
We have all heard or read about the effects and dangers of climate change and global warming. We in the 16th St. Heights neighborhood are living and dying in it everyday; this is not an exaggeration and I’m not asking you to believe me, but to believe the data and the science:
There is no such thing as “clean diesel;”
That diesel particulate matter, (DPM) – diesel soot particles formed from incomplete combustion – when emitted, remains localized, but when these gaseous emissions – nitrogen oxide – a by-product of diesel exhaust, mix with the natural ammonia in the air, tiny particles are formed that are capable of traveling long distances, ending up in areas where there is less of these emissions, thousands of miles away;
That people in these areas, experience a disproportionate number of premature deaths from excess emissions that originated from somewhere else;
That like second-hand smoke, 2,700 people a year, have their lives shortened by a decade;
That when inhaled, the DPM can lodge deep in the lungs, increasing your chances of developing asthma, or asthma-like conditions, other respiratory
diseases, as well as pulmonary and cardiac conditions. It gets in your blood stream where it remains for the rest of your life; it cannot be removed; and
If you don’t believe studies from elsewhere, perhaps you’ll believe our own AG, Karl Racine, who said last December: “Air pollution harms the health of thousands of people who live, work, and visit the District of Columbia—especially children, the elderly, and communities of color . . . 10,000 District children already have breathing problems from asthma, which can lead to an increased risk of long-term health issues.”
In closing, these MIT scientist concluded: “Cleaner diesel may not be the answer: The solution is to eliminate NOx altogether. We know there are human health impacts right down to pre-industrial levels, so there’s no safe level. At this point in time, it’s not that we have to go back to [gasoline]. It’s more that electrification is the answer, and ultimately we do have to have zero emissions in cities.”
For more information, go to cleanbus.org
What is: “Over my dead body?”
Taalib-Din Uqdah – NBN / 1-4 UBA
Washington, DC – Many have asked and still more of you are wondering, what does, “over my dead body mean?” – It appears everywhere on our yard signs and pocket-sized handouts – and what does any of this have to do with Muriel Bowser?
The answer is: In 2010, (then), Councilman Tommy Wells, (Ward 6), Chairman of the Council’s Transportation and Public Works Committee, was conducting a public hearing, receiving testimony from WMATA officials on moving both the Northern and Western Garages, (behind Mazza Gallerie), onto the campus of Walter Reed, underground. https://www.wmata.com/initiatives/plans/upload/walter_reed_bus.pdf
Our (then) Councilwoman Muriel Bowser, marched into the hearing room, uninvited – she was not a member of the committee – and proclaimed, “Over my dead body,” will there be a bus garage on the Walter Reed campus.
All of that – Muriel, Tommy Wells, Transportation & Public Works Committee, 2010 – was too much to put on a sign, referencing (now) the Mayor’s “over my dead body” quote, which it was to have originally said. The same goes for the video animation that started out as a 40-second clip – ended up being 1:06 – there was just no time for the who said what, to whom, and when; so it was cut.
What Muriel said as our councilwoman was forceful, grandiose and admirable – something we agree with – we only wish what applied to Walter Reed, in the Brightwood, Shepherd Park, Takoma communities, applied to us here in 16th St. Heights. It doesn’t and that’s a shame; that’s the issue.
When Lydia Depillis wrote her 2011 City Paper article, she attributed quotes to (then) Ward 4 Councilwoman Muriel Bowser and WMATA spokesman, Dan Stessel, who said that he, “ . . . (Wasn’t) aware of other alternatives, though, and wants to reassure . . . residents that living near a bus barn wouldn't be all that bad. "We are prepared to be the best possible neighbor.”
For Muriel’s part, she said, "The redevelopment of the Walter Reed campus is an opportunity to revitalize a corridor and deliver better access to affordable housing, and provide retail and green space for the residents of Ward 4," she said in a press release. "Relocating the bus facilities undermines this opportunity, discourages private investment, and harms the immediate neighborhood. It also has the potential to add scores of buses to an already congested corridor not served by Metrorail.”
Then a year later – 08/25/2012 – there was this:
“We’d like to see it moved to a more suitable location.”
Just where is that? Does she consider leaving the bus garage where it is, in our neighborhood, to be “more suitable;” that’s crazy! If by suitable she means Blue Plains are Four Mile, OK; while we’re waiting on “suitable,” let’s have her show some good faith and help us move this “toxic waste dump” out of our neighborhood.
If she (or Todd) – he’s in this too – didn’t want the bus garage in those other communities, what makes either one of them think we want it in ours?
Silence is what makes them think that; we’re not saying anything. At a 2012 WMATA presentation in Shepherd Park, they were booed out of the room; we have meetings with WMATA and thank them for coming. There’s a time to be cordial and polite – this ain’t it – we need to advocate for our community and stand-up to this injustice.
So what is it now? WMATA’s proposal to tear down and develop a “new” 5-acre site, then return 150 diesel-fueled buses – 75 of them “accordions” – a body shop and a spray paint booth, is not going to undermine any opportunities for us here in 16th St. Heights? Is Muriel, (now Tood), saying it’s not going to discourage private investment and harm the immediate neighborhood? – Our neighborhood – we won’t be harmed like the communities around Walter Reed would have been if it had gone there? Ridiculous!
Of course they would have been harmed – we have been harmed – and will continue to be harmed unless we stop them. Are our children, families – pets if you have them – less important, less affected than those who live around Walter Reed to which the quote, “Over my dead body,” was initially attributed?
And now that we know the harms these diesel fumes and DPM will cause us, we want this nightmare over – the diesel-fueled buses, the body shop and the spray paint booth GONE! And not just to have this over and done with – no more discussion, no more compromise, but over our dead bodies, which it may be, if we don’t pay attention to the science: Diesel fumes and their by-product diesel particulate matter – DPM – are some dangerous carcinogens and respiratory inhibitors that will affect our health and that of our loved ones forever; we can’t allow this to happen.
We recognize “over my dead body” is a forceful statement – we intended for it to be – we need force. How else were we going to get your attention and have you overcome our collective fears of resistance, our fears of not wanting to get involved because we may upset our neighbor or our friends and associates who may not feel as we do?
Your fears, in this instance, are misplaced; you’re not fighting them – friends and neighbors – you’re fighting back against WMATA and Councilman Brandon Todd’s scheme – yes scheme – (more on that later), to neutralize any opposition to their plans for the garage in returning 150 diesel-fueled buses, a body shop and a spray paint booth to our neighborhood. WMATA’s using him and in turn he’s using his influence with our local ANC/SMD commissioners along with our business and civic organizations – CAUFS, 16th St. NA and the board of Uptown Main Street to get you and I to go along with these plans to our own detriment and they all, (to a person), know it. Politics and having friends in high places, trumps any concerns you and I may have about our health and the health of our families and pets.
They don’t care that your fear is going to kill you – fumes from diesel exhaust and DPM is some dangerous stuff – but don’t place that fear and anger on those of us who want to fight – who want to resist – who want to push back against Todd and his minions, no matter what the political or personal consequences may be. We’re fighting tumult and oppression and in the face of that, arrogance and force is not just called for, it’s allowed and sanctioned.
"Power concedes nothing without demand; it never has and it never will." – Frederick Douglass – in honor of Black History Month February 2020.
Contact us, get a sign and display it proudly in your yard.