A New Target

The City Paper’s Jason Cherkis writes:

Nothing seems to make our local paper happier than spotting a neighborhood in the midst of a renaissance, a rebirth, or just sort of coming back. Today, we get the happy headline: “A Rapid Renaissance in Columbia Heights” under the byline of Paul Schwartzman.

Let’s forget the bad crime rate, the recent conversions of condos to rentals (or the real estate market just tanking in Columbia Heights), the traffic problems, and the displacement of people as the neighborhood’s median income skyrockets. Schwartzman doesn’t see those things. He sees the big stuff: the big numbers and the big, big box stores set to open on 14th Street NW.

Nothing seems to make the City Paper happier than talking about the Post, but coming in a close second is writing about how everything that’s happened in DC since about 1997 has been a total drag. Rounding out the top three is getting stuff wrong.

And Cherkis couldn’t be more wrong here. Let’s do forget the bad crime rate, since crime in the Third Police District has trended in one direction only for most of the past decade. There are occasional flare-ups, but during the last year, homicides are down 26 percent from the year previous, assaults with deadly weapons are down 10 percent, and property crime is down 3 percent. Let’s not do comparisons with 2003 or 1998. I don’t want to make Cherkis look silly.

Let’s forget the bad property news, too, since Cherkis seems unable to do any rigorous analysis there. Single-family home prices have generally held steady in Columbia Heights, while in the suburbs and the nation as a whole they’ve plummeted. Sales are down. This is a surprise? Perhaps no one told Cherkis but there’s a credit crunch on. It’s harder for buyers of all kinds to borrow than it was a few years ago. No worries, though–demand for District housing has remained high, which is why there’s money to be made in apartments.

Traffic problems. Why the hell is he driving around anyway? The growth of transit accessible housing and retail in Columbia Heights has allowed many more personal trips to be taken without the use of an automobile. There is a reason per capita vehicle miles traveled and per capita carbon emissions are incredibly low for District residents, and that’s the move toward transit-oriented development around Metro stations. I guess Cherkis thinks it’s a damn shame that 14th and Park isn’t all quiet like it was when most of the surrounding blocks were empty, and residents had to drive into the suburbs to do their shopping (unless they had no car, in which case they were free to sit around and contemplate the neighborhood’s complete lack of a quality grocery store).

And Cherkis, intellectual lightweight, sees an increase in median income and cries displacement, without bothering to read any relevant research on the topic. Why should he want to educate his readers when he can infuriate them through tactical deployment of his boundless ignorance?

So, to sum up: Jason Cherkis has written something incredibly stupid, in the process ignoring any legitimate questions or concerns that might have been discussed. Now tell me–who is surprised?


  1. BeyondDC says:

    You’ll note I’m not raising my hand.

    City Paper is embarrassing.

  2. DCeiver says:

    Ha! Not me, obvs.

  3. knowcherk says:

    coincidentally, 1997 is the year cherk moved to DC after college.

  4. Alex says:

    Funny that. I lived in DC from the early 1990s to 2002, and all throughout the time the City Paper complained that things were all headed downhill. If only we could return to the glorious days of… well, I could never quite figure out when exactly?

    If nothing else, its oddly comforting to see that the City Paper hasn’t changed its outlook on life. Bt man… it must be hard to live a life where the past is always better then the present.