Current design for the park. Image from DPR.

Outdoor restaurant seating and renovation of a triangle park could help reduce gang activity in a portion of Columbia Heights.

Neighbors near the intersection of 14th Street and Meridian Place in Columbia Heights have long been acquainted with the 3500 crew, a group whose members are often the instigators of noise, littering, drug dealing and violence in the neighborhood.

On Wednesday, ANC 1A unanimously approved two resolutions impacting public space on turf staked out by the 3500 crew. The first supported a public space permit request by Social, a restaurant at the corner of Meridian and 14th, for outdoor seating on the wide sidewalk along 14th Street.

The second requested that the Department of Parks and Recreation hold a community meeting within 30 days to address neighborhood concerns about the planned reconstruction of the adjacent “triangle park” between 14th, Ogden and Oak streets.

The park, which gained citywide attention due to Ruth Samuelson’s September City Paper cover story about park benches, had gone through a design process in 2006 but did not have funds allocated for construction until now. Turnover at DPR, on the ANC and within the community at large will make it near impossible for this project to pick up where it left off.

Although a DPR representative said at the meeting that the park could be completed by September, that goal seems unlikely as ANC members expressed interest in having DPR revisit elements of the design. A better picture of where this project stands will emerge at the coming community meeting.

Also at Wednesday’s meeting, Social received ANC support for a public space permit that would allow it to begin outdoor seating on 14th Street. A restaurant representative said that the restaurant is looking to begin outdoor seating as soon as feasible. Neighbors in the area hope that outdoor diners will provide a counterbalance to the 3500 crew as a presence on the corner.

Though police action has yielded some results, the 3500 crew persists. As the weather warms and the 3500 crew begins to spend more time outdoors on the corner of Meridian and 14th, these issues will become more pressing. Although the park reconstruction will not be complete until after this summer, establishing a permanent group of “eyes on the street” in the form of outdoor diners and wait staff may have an impact on the 3500 crew’s constant presence on this corner.

The crew on the corner of Meridian Place and 14th Street is known as the 3500 Crew because they once operated out of the apartment building located at 3500 14th Street. That building, formerly known as The Cavalier, was completely rehabbed and renamed Hubbard Place. Since some “problem tenants” were evicted by building management as part of this rehabilitation, the 3500 Crew has moved down 14th Street to the corner at Meridian.