Friends of Crummell School

Let Ivy City Breathe

DC’s community planning documents have long recognized that air quality is a problem for the Ivy City community.  Traffic and exhaust from nearby NY Ave is a problematic source – made worse by failed planning and land use decisions which have allowed the area to be saturated by parking lots and polluting vehicles


These concerns are documented in city planning documents including the “Greening Report” of the Neighborhood Stabilization Project and the Comprehensive Plan.

Despite these concerns, the city government has itself placed several polluting parking lots in the area – these include hundreds of school buses along New York Ave and Kendall St, DPW vehicles along Okie and Fenwick Sts, and the city’s parking enforcement vehicles, impound lot and other vehicle parking along West Virginia Ave

Ivy city residents were forced to file a lawsuit against the city when Mayor Gray approved use of the historic Crummell School lot for parking of even more polluting vehicles – this time tour buses from Union Station.  The suit was filed in July 2012 by plaintiffs Vaughn Bennett, Jeannette Carter and Andria Swanson with the support of Empower DC who retained Attorney Johnny Barnes for the cause.  In December 2012, after visiting Ivy City, Judge Judith Macaluso granted an injunction preventing the bus lot from operating.  

The injunction was granted on grounds that the city had failed to follow the Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) notice and input requirements and had failed to complete an Environmental Assessment.  A year and a half later the injunction was lifted but plaintiffs remained in court over Historic Preservation and other claims.  Mayor Bowser has told community members she will not move forward with Mayor Gray’s bus parking plan, and instead she is pursuing a public-private partnership to redevelop Crummell School.  Thanks to the litigation and community efforts, the Union Station tour buses have never been able to park at the Crummell School.  However, air quality remains a concern for Ivy City’s residents.  

Air quality monitoring conducted by Empower DC with partners from Howard University, University of Maryland, Trinity University and George Washington University shows that the PM 2.5 levels in Ivy City regularly exceed EPA standards.  Black Carbon and Formaldehyde are also at high levels as shown in the monitoring report.  These pollutants are significantly damaging to human health.

Ivy City has almost no tree cover which further exacerbates air quality problems (this is also mentioned in the Greening Report).  The City Council’s Committee on Transportation and the Environment supposedly allocated funds to enhance sidewalks and install street trees this year, however that work has not commenced.  

In order to protect the health of Ivy City residents, the City must:

  • Pass legislation to ban the placement of additional pollution sources in the area – especially in the heart of the community at the Crummell School
  • Expand DC’s air monitoring network to include a permanent monitor in Ivy City (the three currently in the city are not near the community)
  • Work with residents, civic association and ANC to address zoning issues that are allowing harmful and polluting enterprises directly next to residential homes (such as the chemical mixing facility on Capitol Ave NE which emits formaldehyde)
  • Promote greening including street trees, green space, less parking lots and paved areas, and green businesses

Greening Report

The “Greening Report” of the Neighborhood Stabilization Project says on page 19:

“Reduce the impact of noise and air pollution caused by bus and truck traffic in Ivy City.

Traffic generated by the industrial uses located along New York Avenue as well as bus traffic on perimeter thoroughfares negatively impact the Ivy City neighborhood. Steps should be taken to minimize or eliminate the air and noise pollution these generate. Truck traffic should be prohibited from the residential streets in the neighborhood, especially Gallaudet Street. This will be especially important with the renovation of the Crummell School. Uses which might generate substantial additional traffic, especially truck traffic, should not be located internal to the neighborhood.”

The full report is available here. 

Comprehensive Plan

The Comprehensive Plan includes similar statements:


618.8    Policy E-4.1.3: Evaluating Development Impacts On Air Quality

Evaluate potential air emissions from new and expanded development, including transportation improvements and municipal facilities, to ensure that measures are taken to mitigate any possible adverse impacts. These measures should include construction controls to reduce airborne dust, and requirements for landscaping and tree planting to absorb carbon monoxide and other pollutants. 618.8


2407.2  Several important messages and priorities were expressed at these meetings: 2407.2

c.  Residents are concerned that they are the location of choice for “unwanted” municipal land uses, such as trash transfer stations, bus garages, youth detention centers, vehicle maintenance facilities, and halfway houses. While there is an appreciation for the importance of these uses to the city, there are concerns about their continued concentration in Upper Northeast simply because the area has a large supply of industrially zoned land.

d.  Upper Northeast neighborhoods have lived with the heavy truck traffic, noise, and visual blight that come with industrial land uses for decades. This is particularly true in Ivy City, Langdon, Brentwood, and the 7th-8th Street NE area southwest of the Brookland Metro station. Residents are especially concerned about large trucks, vibration, dust, air pollution, and the transport of hazardous materials on the railroads. There is also a desire to clean up “brownfield” sites in the community and return them to productive use. These sites provide an opportunity to apply “green” development principles, turning environmental liabilities into environmental assets.