About 100 Foggy Bottom residents and members of the GW community assembled in the Eye Street Mall on Sunday for the first local block party in 15 years.
Members of the Foggy Bottom community enjoyed about 15 booths of hot dogs, popcorn and cotton candy. GW musical groups such as The Vibes and Voices of Inspiration entertained the crowd, along with Code Blue, a rock band composed of doctors from the GW Hospital.
FRIENDS, a collaborative group of GW representatives and community members promoting positive dialogue between the parties, sponsored the event. Organization officials said they hoped the festivities would help to foster an open relationship between all members of the Foggy Bottom community after a history of bitterness and resentment.
“Residents often feel we do things solely for PR value,” said Michael Akin, coordinator of GW FRIENDS representatives. “GW did not plan this for the community; it was planned with the community.”
Akin said a group of students, faculty members and Foggy Bottom residents is “a good cross-section of what the community looks like.”
“It’s so nice to get out and finally meet your neighbors,” senior Kate Clayman said.
Foggy Bottom hosted annual block parties until about 15 years ago when growing animosity between the GW and outside communities intensified. This year, FRIENDS reinvented the block party to prove GW’s community relations are not based in negativity or court battles, but rather in positive dialogue and collaboration, Akin said.
FRIENDS, which Akin established two years ago, began with nine members but has grown to more than 60. Akin said his group differs from the Foggy Bottom Association, an independent civic organization, because the FBA focuses too heavily on a negative relationship with the University.
“I think the community and the University are doing fairly well,” said Pat Patterson, a Foggy Bottom resident and FRIENDS representative. “The Association and the University, however, are not, and they never will.”
Several Foggy Bottom residents in attendance said while a block party is a step toward improving relations, work still needs to be done.
Columbia Plaza resident Gloria Wold said local residents should have been invited to view the Health and Wellness Center at its opening and that the GW Law School should offer open time for residents seeking information and advice.
“To further relations with the community, you have to do more than something like this,” she said.
FRIENDS officials said they offered FBA a table at the block party but that leaders refused because of hostility toward GW.
However, FBA member and Editor of the Foggy Bottom News Ellie Becker said her organization declined to participate because FRIENDS did not approach her group about it until two weeks before the event.
-Elizabeth Chernow contributed to this report.