City Desk

The Tragedy of H.R. Crawford Is the City’s Tragedy Too

In response to his paper's exhaustive auditing of H.R. Crawford's real-estate development, Post columnist Marc Fisher does a perfect job of describing what exactly is at issue with the famous developer. It's not the government money he's taken. It's the false hope he's given to poor residents whose property he wants to sell out from under them.

Fisher writes:

"Crawford's business operations are a jumble of contradictions. He sets out to build affordable housing for Washingtonians who've never owned anything in their lives, yet his grand plans often include pushing families out of homes they've had for decades. He promises poor people he will make homeowners of them, yet far too many of the units he's built end up in the hands of people who have political, personal or financial connections to him."

Crawford has his good and bad side. We chronicled Crawford's amazing b.s. to Kelsey Gardens residents. We also touted his redevelopment East of the River. But he's getting hosed now for all those false promises to residents.

Let me just say it: It is not shocking that residents either don't come back to their redeveloped apartments or are simply not allowed. Poor residents who want to return to their newly gentrified digs suddenly have had to contend with all kinds of new barriers: 1) A suddenly rigorous credit check; 2) the demand that they enroll in some budgeting class or computer class; 3) they are not informed that the building is ready for them to return. And who is responsible for most of these false promises across the city?

When it comes to making false promises to poor residents no one has done a better job in the past than the D.C. Housing Authority. Crawford is a nothing compared to the city government's representatives. Arthur Capper is a good example.

Arthur Capper is just one of the city's land grabs. It always starts the same with a city official coming to the housing project's rec center and making a pitch: "What would you like to see in your new community?"

The official gets community input. The residents get excited. Then they get booted. Only a handful ever make it back.

Five years ago, I called DCHA and asked them for a list of all its residents who've moved to make way for development. The agency threw up all kinds of roadblocks. But one thing they admitted, they didn't keep track of those displaced residents.

These are the same residents they've made all kinds of promises too. And they simply lost them.

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  • Jim

    I won't take you to task for your errors in punctuation because you clearly will never get a good grip on that, but I will ask that you change "who's" to "whose" in the first paragraph. As you remarked in your childish post about the Examiner's errors, that's really a freshman mistake.

  • Jim

    I only say this because that Examiner post of yours was called "D.C. Examiner Needs Spell Check," but you would have caught that error if you had run spell check on your post here.

  • Jim

    Thanks for making that change.

  • Jason Cherkis

    Jim: I wonder when you will be able to figure out the difference between a blog post and a story? And there's a big difference between getting the central figure in your story wrong and a grammar error. But thanks for the catch.

  • Jim

    You’re absolutely right. Though you seem to revel in pointing out the errors in the stories of other publications, your childish blog posts should not be held to the same basic standards of journalism because they are on a blog. That’s what you’re saying, right?

    Cherkis, are you quite proud that you've never misspelled a name in a story?

  • Jason Cherkis

    After nine semesters at my college newspaper, I had one correction. It was for misspelled name. His name was Banerjee. I spelled it "Bonerjee."

  • Reid

    Wait did I read that right? $88 dollars a month for a four bedroom apartment? Damn. Is that common? How much does the building owner get in subsidies? I'm just shocked by that. Of course they wouldn't want to give that up and of course the building owner has a huge incentive to get them to give it up, whether through lying or other coercive means.

  • Reid

    After nine semesters at my college newspaper, I had one correction. It was for misspelled name. His name was Banerjee. I spelled it “Bonerjee.”

    So what you're saying is that the Examiner's mistake was not actually a "Freshman" mistake but rather a "Super Senior" mistake.

  • Jason Cherkis

    Hey--the nine semesters includes summers!

  • Arthur Delaney

    That's awesome that your one correction in college was for a real boner.

  • Amanda Hess

    It's not particularly helpful to say that because one newspaper makes errors, it can't call another newspaper on its own mistakes. We're all watchdogs of each other. The Examiner---and Jim---are welcome to critique our product, too.

  • Jim

    I completely agree, Amanda. Your publication absolutely ought to serve as a watchdog of other local (and even national) publications, and as you say, just because City Paper makes mistakes doesn’t mean they shouldn’t critique other publications.

    What I have a problem with is City Paper’s version of being a “watchdog” on press matters seems to be limited to petty matters, especially when Cherkis is the writer (though the things Wemple has recently taken issue with have been pretty irrelevant).

    I find it laughable that Cherkis saw fit to make an entire post out of another publication’s misspelling of a name in the dateline (or whatever that’s called in the Examiner—the name was actually spelled properly throughout the story) when his stories have so many errors in them. And then not being able to take it when called on his sloppy and lazy writing.

    So, if he's going to make hay out of misspellings by other publications on this blog, I will happily point out how this "senior writer" doesn't understand "who's" vs. "whose" and any other freshman mistake he might make.

  • urban pioneer

    and jim still fails to see the difference between a front page story in a printed newspaper and a blog item!!

  • Andrew Beaujon

    I'm with Jim on this won.

  • Amanda Hess

    An entire post? Surely, a half-post or quarter-post would have sufficed.

  • Dave

    I agree there's a difference between blog posts and front page stories. But I think we're on a slippery slope here if we say that blogs can be shitty because they're blogs. Even the most half-baked blog postings, and there are quite a few of them on this site, have to be accurate.

    Also, there's nothing wrong with the City Paper acting as a watchdog on other media outlets, as long as they don't do it in a smug/self-important/dickish manner. That means you, Mr. Nine Errorless Semesters. (Btw, can someone fact check that? I'm not calling Cherkis a liar, but his claim strikes me as dubious.)

  • Mike Licht

    Sorry to interrupt, but does HR still carry a gun?

    Just checking.

  • Amanda Hess

    Dave---aren't you an aspiring journo student? Fact check it yourself!

  • Jason Cherkis

    Wow the majority of these comments have nothing to do with my blog post about how the city displaces its poor. Great job!

  • Jim


    (Just kidding. I thought it was an excellent blog post.)

  • Jason Cherkis

    Jim: this is the first thing you've written where I actually had to chuckle.

  • emrj

    It's worth noting what the former residents receive, as well (and not just play up that they don't return in the end). They usually get a Section 8 voucher, a hugely valuable coupon that means they pay only 30% of whatever income and the government pays the rest of their rent -- up to $1600 or so. And, the residents usually get to leapfrog over the other 20,000 people on the wait list for housing vouchers. Some others get a check, typically for a few thousand. Finally, they get out of the hell hole dilapidated housing that really is not worth fixing up.

    It's not the best resolution, but it'd be nice to see these deals for what they are. A trade-off.

  • Jason Cherkis

    Emrj: thanks for you comment. But I have to say that a paper coupon is not housing. Try walking around with that coupon in this rental market or the way this rental market was a few years ago. How many landlords took in Section 8 tenants? There are all kinds of reasons why they don't.

  • HR Jr

    You all have gotten away from the message. He does try to help the community. The surrounding community has benefited from the developments. BTW he stopped carrying a gun in the late 90's. I carry it for him.