A 34-year-old father living in Foggy Bottom hopes to join the Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission to make the area safer for families.
Matthew Chwastek, an electrical engineer who has lived on 24th Street and New Hampshire Ave. for two years, said he decided to run after hearing that current commissioner John Williams would not seek re-election. He said neighbors in the single-member district, which includes the historic district in Foggy Bottom, deserve representation by someone who listens their opinions, and he would regularly talk to community members so he could fairly represent them.
“I decided we needed someone in the neighborhood to represent the constituents’ interests, to help provide a better environment for families and students,” Chwastek said.
Chwastek moved to Foggy Bottom two years ago and grew up in Philadelphia, where he attended Drexel University. He is currently employed as an electrical engineer with Orbital Insight, Inc., according to the company’s website. He previously worked at the U.S. Treasury, the Department of Defense and the Federal Aviation Authority.
Chwastek is one of two candidates in the only contested ANC race in the Foggy Bottom and West End commission, opposing 29-year-old Marco Guzman, who is an editor assistant for a weekly tax publication.
If elected, Chwastek said he would support resolutions that promote traffic safety in Washington Circle, Foggy Bottom park maintenance and affordable housing availability.
“It’s a challenge when you have a diverse population, from college freshmen up to senior citizens,” Chwastek said. “I want to make sure Foggy Bottom remains a good place to live and have a family.”
Chwastek said GW’s development of residential and academic buildings add value to the area but that he does not want construction projects to dominate the neighborhood.
“The University continues to grow bigger, wider and broader, and we need to make sure it can do so without taking over the entire neighborhood,” he said. “The University is the anchor of the community, what makes Foggy Bottom such a vibrant place to live.”
Chwastek added that he is concerned about the neighborhood’s housing affordability. He said he does not want Foggy Bottom’s housing prices to eventually drive elderly and low-income citizens out of the area.
GW is converting three University-owned townhouses on F Street into affordable housing, a concession to neighbors after community members complained about a high-end office building GW is constructing on Pennsylvania Avenue.
Chwastek would advocate for Foggy Bottom to maintain the historic feel of the neighborhood, he added.
Chwastek said he respects GW students’ right to live off-campus but that students must respect non-University-affiliated residents by maintaining positive community relations.
The ANC must effectively represent neighbors’ concerns about the University, he said.
“There’s always friction in the overall dynamic, and that means we must maintain the positive relationship the University has with the neighborhood,” Chwastek said.
Patrick Kennedy, the chair of the Foggy Bottom and West End ANC, said Chwastek is invested in Foggy Bottom’s historic district, since the candidate is a young father who decided to raise his family in the district.
Kennedy added that he is not endorsing either candidate for the seat and that it is general practice on the ANC for commissioners to not take sides on contested races.
“I think in this neighborhood there’s a general predilection on the commission to stay out of most contested races and sort of let them play out and let voters make up their own minds,” he said. “I see two very good candidates, and I see two candidates where I hope the one that does not win becomes involved in some greater level in the community regardless.”