City Desk

Positive Nature’s Future Still Uncertain

For months we have chronicled Positive Nature's struggle to keep its doors open just a short walk from the Navy Yard metro and the new Nationals Park.

With the new stadium, new condo developments, and new Courtyard Marriott, the non-profit—which provides a vast safety net for at-risk kids—found itself with a huge property tax bill. In the last few months, they have held a rally, lobbied various city officials, attended countless meetings, and heard all kinds of promises and messages of support. In mid-April, Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray introduced legislation that would effectively save the non-profit. The bill was co-introduced by Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells. It seemed like a big deal.

That big deal has turned—at least for right now—into nothing. When I last spoke with Wells about the legislation—a few weeks ago—he seemed surprised that I would even bring it up. His look was total deer-in-the-headlights. He spent the next several minutes filibustering on why the legislation might not even be necessary.

I wondered: If you thought the legislation wasn't completely needed then why bother spending the time to write it up and introduce it?

Wells went on to talk about all the ways Positive Nature could survive, that they were in talks to move into an abandoned school, etc. The abandoned school idea is not practical on several levels: the space would be too big for their needs, and their kids require a careful, theraputic environment. More than likely, the school space would be shared with other groups and other sets of kids. This could create problems for kids who can be easily distracted, who are going through foster care, who are having trouble keeping up in school.

I have yet to hear anything more about this legislation since Gray sent out his press release.

In the meantime, Positive Nature has kept on trying to do two things: save itself and take care of its kids. Last night, the non-profit and its kids put on a variety and talent show. It was essentially the grand finale before the start of its summer program.

I don't know if Wells or Gray were invited but neither they nor their staff showed up. They certainly missed out.

The kids put on a series of dance routines (apparently Soulja Boy is still super popular), staffers read poems authored by the kids, kids read their own tributes to the staff, and a few really brave ones sang.

I've hung out at Positive Nature a lot and seen many of the kids at some pretty rough moments. So it was incredibly shocking to see these same kids put on wacky clothes and transform themselves into dancers, tumblers, drummers, and singers. They suddenly became the bravest kids in the world.

Perhaps the bravest one of the night was Francis. She stunned everyone by taking the microphone, leaning against the back wall, and belting out a clean and beautiful "Amazing Grace." It wasn't merely good in the oh-look-how-cute-she-is way. It was just so strong on its own. She was brilliant even if she felt the need to tug her ballcap low over her face.

I just wonder now how many more moments like this these kids will have. If city officials continue to shrug their shoulders, where will kids like Francis go? And who will be there to appreciate and nurture their talents?

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  • bendygirl

    I'd heard that this was a done deal? That the city had agreed to a tax abatement for the length of the time that Postive Nature intends to stay on the site. So, from what you're saying here, this is no longer the that true?

  • Cherkis

    There was never a deal where the city agreed to the tax abatement.