Foggy Bottom residents are angry that the University removed a 100-year-old call box when they installed a new blue-light phone at the corner of H Street and New Hampshire Avenue last weekend. While GW seemed to resolve the issue by putting the box back after residents complained, the issue exposes just what is missing from the relationship between GW and Foggy Bottom residents: communication.
The University should not have removed the historic call box – mistake or not – but those responsible acted properly in returning it.
The larger issue, though, is the sour relationship between GW and the community. Aware of how volatile GW’s relationship with Foggy Bottom neighbors is, University officials should have notified local residents about the new emergency light installed on public property. At the same rate, residents should not act rashly by attempting to prevent the installation of a device that will enhance public safety for everyone.
Nearby residents complain they were not notified of GW’s plans to install a blue light on the corner near the Hall on Virginia Avenue. Perhaps the neighborly thing would be to send a note, but with the necessary permits in hand, it is difficult to expect officials to predict the acrimonious reaction the incident sparked. GW was simply setting up an emergency alarm to make the neighborhood safer. Clearly this debacle is a product of poor communication.
The University sometimes acts without its neighbors’ input, much to residents’ exasperation. But when GW does seek input, Foggy Bottom residents often stymie efforts to improve student life through reasonable measures. For evidence one need only recall a lawsuit filed by residents seeking to tear down the new GW Hospital after its foundation was poured.
Administrators should be conscious of residents’ concerns and should try to alleviate them whenever possible. And residents should be more selective in the battles they choose. Blocking initiatives like blue-light installations that make the area safer diminishes the credibility of their often-valid concerns. Both sides must abandon pettiness and begin cooperating, or else the quality of life for everyone in Foggy Bottom – students, residents and University workers – will never improve.