Finding the Center (Metro Weekly) 07/15/04
Neighbors unsure about gay center at Stead Park (The Washington Blade) 07/23/04
Rosendall opposes use of public park
to build gay community center
July 22, 2004
As a longtime Dupont Circle resident with a view of Stead Park from my living room, I would probably be a regular visitor to a GLBT community center if it were built there ("Finding the Center," 7/15/04). But unlike the Jewish Community Center, the proposed new center involves the effective privatization of a public asset. What is the problem for which this is the solution?
The Center's plan includes office and meeting space as well as a theater, a gym, and a computer lab something for everyone, like a congressional spending bill. But the neighborhood already has meeting space, theaters, gyms, and an Internet café. Center president Patrick Menasco claims the proposed parking garage "will help alleviate congestion in the street." But with all the events it would host, the Center would be just as likely to add congestion.
Menasco assures us that the Center will tap new charitable sources rather than existing ones, without offering any evidence. As for rents, why would groups pay for space when they already meet elsewhere for free? Menasco states that gays throughout the Metro area could benefit from "an information clearinghouse on the web." Fine, but that requires no real estate.
The Center would be first in line for a park already serving a variety of groups, in an area with few sports fields. This one should not be sidelined for years while a Center is built.
Menasco says, "We need ... a place for people to live their lives normally to recreate, to socialize, to pursue their artistic and educational desires." But we do have such a place it's called Washington, D.C.
Menasco implies that without "The Center" there will be no gay community, that somehow our greater integration into the wider community leaves us weaker. How preposterous. Such an ambitious project, with the skids being greased by District officials, would be hard to imagine if its proponents were not highly successful and well-connected. This is not about defending us, it is about patronage and pork.
Menasco says, "It's much cheaper for us to lease property from the city for a hundred dollars a year than it is for us to pay five million dollars for a much smaller space." Well, yes, but why should the city hand over such a valuable property to one of the most prosperous communities in town? Call it Bourgeois Welfare.
The city has unmet needs that should take precedence in a time of tight budgets, in addition to the park's existing stakeholders. Councilmember Graham told The InTowner that it was the responsibility of the Center to obtain the support of neighborhood groups and the ANC. He is right. As a neighbor of Stead Park who respects and values all of my neighbors, I urge the ANC and District officials to say no to this unnecessary and selfish proposal.
Richard J. Rosendall