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by Kalina Newman — June 15, 2017 at 4:15 pm 0

(Updated at 6:20 p.m.) Nostalgia is the most dangerous emotion for Andrew Gifford, the grandson of John Gifford, founder of beloved former area ice cream chain Gifford’s Ice Cream.

Last month Gifford released his first book, “We All Scream: The Rise and Fall of the Gifford’s Ice Cream Empire. The book depicts Gifford’s abusive relationship with his parents growing up, the deaths of his grandparents and how his father ruined Washington’s largest ice cream empire.

When Robert Gifford, one of John Gifford’s other sons, took over the company, things quickly went downhill. Gifford described his father’s actions during the reading, explaining how he would never pay his taxes, cheated his customers and didn’t pay employees, ultimately leaving the company in financial ruin.

Despite the collapse, many local residents still remember Gifford’s fondly. And that means the brand is still valuable.

“It doesn’t matter what’s in the cup,” a person trying to reboot the company said last year, according to Gifford. “As long as I say it’s Gifford’s Swiss Chocolate, people will pay me anything I ask.”

“It’s these people who are so focused on this fantasy and nostalgia that frustrate me,” said Gifford. “I want the lesson to be nostalgia is dangerous, don’t give into it. Don’t buy $6 ice cream from someone who said they once bought machines from the people who once supplied Gifford’s 50 years ago.”

Gifford was at One More Page Books in Arlington’s East Falls Church neighborhood earlier this week, where he read two excerpts from his book, held a Q&A session and signed copies.

In the excerpt Gifford read during the event, he described how his mother decided to sit him down at the age of 6 and tell him that his grandmother was murdered by his grandfather. This was a lie: his grandmother had passed several years beforehand, but Gifford had been told she was still alive during his entire childhood.

“We All Scream” made an impression on members of the audience, most of whom grew up in the area and had warm memories of Gifford’s Ice Cream.

During the Q&A session, many questions were about what happened to the old Gifford’s ice cream flavors and recipes people adored, and if anyone could find any remaining Gifford’s products. Instead of focusing on the horror and abuse around the Gifford story, the questions were full of yearning and nostalgia.

“This was a beautiful thing that people loved but it needs to die,” said Gifford after the event. “It needs to end. There’s this obsession with the Gifford’s of old, when really it wasn’t that fairytale.”

by ARLnow.com — May 11, 2017 at 2:35 pm 0

Someone tried to light a door on fire at the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses church in the East Falls Church neighborhood of Arlington this morning.

The fire was set using a flammable substance just before 10 a.m., according to Arlington County Fire Department spokesman Lt. Jason Hart. The fire damaged the door — an entrance to the church sanctuary — and some surrounding bushes but did not spread beyond that.

Investigators from the Fire Marshal’s Office are still on scene this afternoon, gathering evidence.

This is the second such arson case currently being investigated in Northern Virginia, Hart said; a similar fire was recently set at a Jehovah’s Witnesses church in the Falls Church section of Fairfax County.

Arlington authorities are coordinating the investigation with their Fairfax County counterparts, according to Hart.

by Chris Teale — May 3, 2017 at 1:15 pm 0

Refinements are being made to a plan to build a pedestrian and cyclist bridge in East Falls Church, which has undergone big changes in the past few months.

A previous version came under fire earlier this year for what critics viewed as a negative impact on the surrounding neighborhood and a perceived lack of community input, as well as design concerns. In previous renderings, the bridge had a trussed roof and was dark red.

The Virginia Dept. of Transportation has proposed building a new bridge over Lee Highway near the W&OD trail as part of its “Transform 66” interstate widening and tolling project.

If built, VDOT says the bridge would improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists. The trail currently crosses Lee Highway at the busy intersection with Fairfax Drive.

Now, the bridge has no trusses along its top and is instead what Amanda Baxter, special projects development manager at VDOT, described at a meeting Tuesday as an “earth tone gray.” Baxter said other refinements include shaped fencing and renderings showing nearby landscaping, as well as locations for relocated trail shelters to provide a rest area for all users.

She added that the lighting on the bridge is still up for discussion. Currently, the bridge has acorn-style lights in its center that would be maintained by Dominion Virginia Power. VDOT and local residents agree the lights could be better, but they are limited to lights in Dominion’s inventory.

Baxter said the Northern Virginia Regional Parks Authority, which owns land nearby, is instead willing to help out with maintaining different lights.

“I think they’ve heard you too and are willing to step up and look to other options they can maintain,” she said.

Also still up for discussion are the installation of noise walls at certain areas along I-66, which VDOT is required to offer to provide under federal law if the noise level goes higher than 66 decibels.

Neighbors who would directly benefit from the walls would be balloted on whether they should be installed, Baxter said, although some attendees raised concerns about the walls appearing to enclose the neighborhood behind them and block light.

And local resident Sandy Chesrown, representing the Lee Highway Alliance, said the group would continue to push for public art to be installed nearby.

“We see this as a gateway statement to Falls Church and Arlington County, and we will continue to lobby for some sort of public art,” she said.

VDOT plans to award a design/build contract for the entire “Transform 66” project, including constructing the bridge, at the end of this year. Building work is projected to take from mid-2018 until 2021.

by Katie Pyzyk — April 20, 2017 at 4:30 pm 0

Arlington County police are assisting the Fairfax County Police Department in the search for a suspect who took off in the East Falls Church area after a chase.

Around 3:30 p.m. Fairfax police were called to Tysons Corner for reports of a possible fraudulent transaction at the Apple Store. Officers found two suspects in a car in a parking lot and attempted to stop them.

The suspects took off and a pursuit ensued along Route 7 and Interstate 66. During the pursuit the suspects’ vehicle struck another vehicle but nobody was hurt.

The chase ended near N. Sycamore Street and 22nd Street N. in East Falls Church. Fairfax police arrested one suspect but the other took off on foot. A resident on the 6500 block of 22nd Street N. reports seeing police confiscate bags that appear to be from the Apple Store.

A helicopter and K-9 units are assisting with an active search for the suspect in the East Falls Church neighborhood.

The suspect is described as a black man between the ages of 20 and 25 who is about 6 feet tall and 180-200 pounds. He was last seen wearing a white t-shirt and white pants.

Police say homeowners in the area should lock windows, doors and garage doors and report anything suspicious by calling the police non-emergency number at 703-558-2222, and they should not attempt to approach any person who seems suspicious. Police also recommend remaining alert into the evening because sometimes suspects emerge after they believe police activity has calmed down.

Photos courtesy Erin Donahue

by Chris Teale — April 19, 2017 at 3:30 pm 0

A proposal to add bike lanes to a western portion of Washington Blvd has been shelved after neighbors raised concerns at losing on-street parking spaces.

A spokesman for the county’s department of environmental services said that after previously considering a nearly two-mile stretch of bike lanes from N. Sycamore Street to George Mason Drive, staff has revised their plan.

Instead, a bicycle lane will be added to a shorter stretch, westbound between N. McKinley and N. Sycamore streets; eastbound the lane will stretch from the hill at N. Sycamore Street near the East Falls Church Metro station to N. Quintana Street. There they will be directed along parallel neighborhood streets before reconnecting with Washington Blvd near Westover.

“The revised plan would still provide bicycling facilities both eastbound and westbound from East Falls Church to Westover Village, albeit with a section along neighborhood streets, while also minimizing the impact to parking in the middle section that was most heavily impacted in the initial proposal, including the preservation of parking in front of and across from the Resurrection Evangelical Lutheran Church, which does not have off-street parking,” DES spokesman Eric Balliet said.

The project is part of a wider re-paving plan by the Virginia Department of Transportation, which controls that section of Washington Blvd.

The initial plan of bicycle lanes in each direction, improved pedestrian crossings and other improvements was shared publicly last March and received more than 400 comments. County staff then broke them down into categories to get a sense of the main areas of support and concern. Staff then integrated those comments into their revisions of the proposal.

Balliet said the revised plan “continues to meet all major goals with fewer impacts on parking in the middle section where impacts were most acute.”

But bicycling advocates vented their frustration at the change. In a blog post published yesterday on the Washington Area Bicyclist Association’s website, WABA staff member Garrett Hennigan blasted the changes.

“Following the first meeting, supportive comments poured in from neighborhood residents. 65 percent of comments supported the bike lanes as did 55 percent of comments from neighborhood residents,” Hennigan wrote. “Now, to save some parking spaces and appease a vocal minority, the County has thrown out the public process, abandoned years of planning and determined that putting people on bikes at risk is a fair compromise.”

A community meeting on the project’s latest iteration will be held tonight at 5 p.m. in the Reed-Westover Building at 1644 N. McKinley Road.

Photo via Google Maps

by ARLnow.com — April 3, 2017 at 11:05 am 0

An alert resident and some quick police work led to the arrest of two men suspected of breaking into cars in the East Falls Church area early Friday morning.

Police said the men, both of whom are in their 20s and from Maryland, “entered and rummaged through” a dozen vehicles, stealing a number of items including credit cards.

More from an Arlington County Police Department crime report:

LARCENY FROM AUTO (Series), 2017-03310502, 2200 block of N. Tuckahoe Street. At approximately 1:46 a.m. on March 31, police were dispatched to a citizen report of suspicious subjects in the area. Responding officers established a perimeter and stopped two subjects matching the witness descriptions. During the course of the investigation, officers located approximately twelve vehicles which has been entered and rummaged through. Randolph Tyler, 27, of Temple Hills, MD was arrested and charged with credit card theft (x2), possession of burglarious tools, tampering with a motor vehicle (x4), petit larceny (x2), identity theft to avoid arrest and possession of marijuana. He was held on no bond. David Moody, 26, of Morning Side, MD, was arrested and charged with credit card theft (x2), possession of burglarious tools, petit larceny, and tampering with a motor vehicle (x4). He was held on no bond.

Meanwhile, another series of break-ins was reported Monday morning, this time in the Fairlington area. Officers said the suspects entered at least three cars that were left unlocked overnight.

These two series of break-ins follows a number of similar break-in sprees since the beginning of the year.

by ARLnow.com — March 15, 2017 at 10:10 am 0

Police car lightsA would-be bike thief led police on a foot chase outside the East Falls Church Metro yesterday afternoon.

The incident happened just before 2:30 p.m. Police say the man ran when approached by an officer on patrol. The pursuit ended on the 6700 block of 19th Road N. when, according to police, the man struck an officer and was tased.

More from Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage:

Just prior to 2:30 p.m., an officer on routine patrol observed a male subject attempting to steal a bicycle outside the East Falls Church metro station. The subject attempted to flee the area and a brief foot pursuit was initiated. As the officer was attempting to detain the subject, he became combative and struck the officer. The officer deployed their taser during the incident. The subject was evaluated by medics and no serious injuries were reported. The subject was arrested and charged with Assault and Battery on Police and additional charges are anticipated.

by ARLnow.com — March 1, 2017 at 11:10 am 0

Washington Blvd just west of Westover (Photo via Google Maps)

A community meeting is scheduled for tonight (Wednesday) to discuss a road re-striping plan that would add bike lanes but remove some parking on the western portion of Washington Blvd in Arlington.

The meeting is set to take place at the Westover Branch Library (1644 N. McKinley Road) from 5-8 p.m.

“We invite community members to provide ideas and insights on how we achieve the maximum benefits for bicycle access and pedestrian safety, while minimizing potential impacts in the area,” says the meeting’s web page.

Among the changes being proposed:

  • “Create nearly a two-mile stretch of bike lanes from Sycamore St. to George Mason Dr.”
  • “Narrow unnecessary wide travel lanes to help calm traffic.”
  • “Install a dedicated left turn lane for westbound Washington Boulevard at N. Ohio Street to help reduce backups.”
  • “Sidewalks will be more comfortable for walking due to buffering provided by the new bike lanes.”

The restriping, as proposed, would add bike lanes in both directions to where they don’t already exist on Washington Blvd between Westover and East Falls Church, but at the expense of some on-street parking.

The project is being planned by Arlington County but will be performed and funded by VDOT, which maintains that stretch of Washington Blvd.

Photo via Google Maps

by Tim Regan — February 14, 2017 at 3:45 pm 0

(Updated at 4 p.m.) More than two dozen new townhomes could soon go up at the site of an East Falls Church bank.

Homebuilder NVR, Inc. has filed a preliminary site plan to construct 27 new townhomes at 6711 Lee Highway, a 1.69-acre plot of land currently occupied by a SunTrust bank.

According to the site plan, the new development would consist of single-family units in buildings up to four stories tall. The new buildings are designed in a “classic, urban, Georgetown style” and will be primarily composed of brick. NVR also calls for new trees and landscaping along Lee Highway and an internal private street for residents.

Additionally, the Suntrust Bank would be relocated under the plan. NVR said in its application it plans to “work with SunTrust to facilitate their orderly relocation.”

The planned redevelopment is still in its early stages. The project must be reviewed by the Site Plan Review Committee (SPRC), then be presented to both the Arlington Planning Commission and the County Board.

Photos (1-3) may appear slightly warped. Photo (4) via Google Maps.

by Tim Regan — January 27, 2017 at 10:00 am 0

(Updated at 10:31 a.m.) A proposal to build a new pedestrian and cyclist bridge in East Falls Church has prompted complaints from some nearby residents.

The Virginia Dept. of Transportation has proposed building a new bridge over Lee Highway near the W&OD trail as part of its “Transform 66” interstate widening and tolling project.

If built, VDOT says the bridge would improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists. The trail currently crosses Lee Highway at the busy intersection with Fairfax Drive.

But the idea deserves more thought, according to the East Falls Church Civic Association. Residents voiced concern in a letter the group sent to local officials last week.

“This VDOT project, if not paused, will create problems for holistic future pedestrian and cyclist transit development in the area, as well as create negative impacts on the surrounding neighborhood in a way that a more thoughtful design would not,” the letter reads. “Pause this project so the neighborhood and the surrounding areas can fully consider the problems we are trying to address (both present and future).”

East Falls Church Civic Association president Kelly Alexis said locals first heard of the plan in October. Since then, Alexis said she’s received emails from more than two dozen East Falls Church residents, many opposing the idea.

The problem, Alexis explained, revolves around a lack of input from the community. Though VDOT has held a series of public meetings, she said the agency hasn’t adequately weighed the concerns of the people who live nearby the proposed site of the bridge.

Earlier this month, the association met with VDOT officials to discuss the plan and identified a number of concerns. Among them are questions about whether the bridge would disrupt design aspects of the 2011 East Falls Church Area Plan or “lock-in” the alignment of the W&OD trail, which residents say forces cyclists and pedestrians onto neighborhood streets near the East Falls Church Metro station.

The plan also needs more study regarding improving pedestrian access and safety along Lee Highway on the I-66 overpass and at the Fairfax Drive and Washington Blvd intersections, residents said at the meeting.

The association has suggested several alternatives to building the bridge, such as a trail realignment under Lee Highway or rerouting the trail across Fairfax Drive at the same intersection.

“It’s not a bad plan, it’s just the wrong plan,” Alexis said. “We recognize we’re in a transportation hub, but we want to work together to create a better solution.”

Gillian Burgess, chair of Arlington County’s Bicycle Advisory Committee, said she shares some of the neighborhood’s concerns. Still, a bridge is sorely needed to “allow people on two feet or two wheels to use the trail without worrying whether that red car is really going to stop at the light,” she said.

“The neighborhood does have legitimate concerns about the de facto routing of the trail through their neighborhood,” Burgess added. “But there’s no need to delay building this much-needed improvement to this important piece of our transportation network.”

The Arlington County Board is expected to further discuss the I-66 widening plan and the pedestrian bridge at its meeting tomorrow (Saturday).

by ARLnow.com — December 7, 2016 at 9:00 am 0

"Safe space" sign on house in Penrose

New LED Crossing Guard Signs — VDOT is giving Arlington County a $880 grant that will allow it to purchase four new LED-illuminated paddle signs for crossing guards. The new signs will show “‘slow’ on one side and ‘stop’ on the other… when illuminated, they are visible up to one mile away.” The County Board is expected to accept the grant at its Saturday meeting. [Arlington County]

County Board to Make Car-Sharing Permanent — On Saturday the Arlington County Board is expected to vote to make car-sharing systems permanent in county code. Earlier this year the Board authorized trips between Arlington and D.C. for car-share provider Car2Go. The move has significantly boosted Car2Go’s usage in Arlington. [UrbanTurf]

Discovery Elementary’s Net Zero Goal — Officials from the U.S. Department of Energy recently toured Arlington’s new Discovery Elementary school. The school was built to be a Net Zero Energy building, meaning that it produces more energy than it uses. The school’s solar panel array cost $1.5 million but is expected to pay for itself in about 10 years. [WJLA]

Man Sentenced for Sneaking Into U.S., Again — A Guatemalan man who has a colorful history of sneaking into the U.S., being deported, and trying to come back again, has been sentenced to jail time. Juan Abel Belteton-Barrios, 46, was sentenced to 14 months in prison and three years of supervised release. [Patch]

Why East Falls Church? — GGW has a primer on his history and geography of the various Northern Virginia locales with “Falls Church” in the name or postal address, including Arlington’s East Falls Church neighborhood. [Greater Greater Washington]

by ARLnow.com — September 12, 2016 at 12:30 pm 0

Police car lightsTwo juveniles are in custody after trying to rob a woman at gunpoint on the W&OD Trail, according to Arlington County Police.

The robbery happened around 4:20 p.m. Friday, on the trail near the East Falls Church Metro station.

Police say the woman yelled for help, scaring off the suspects. The pair — a juvenile male and female — were later arrested on a bus and charged with armed robbery and gun charges.

From an ACPD crime report:

ARMED ROBBERY, 160909040, 6600 block of N. 19th Road. At approximately 4:22 p.m. on September 9, officers responded to the report of a robbery. When on scene, it was determined that a female victim was walking on the W&OD trail and was approached by two masked subjects who demanded her property at gunpoint. The victim began to yell for help, causing the subjects to flee. A witness observed the subjects get on to a bus where they were later apprehended by officers. The male juvenile subject was charged with armed robbery, conspiracy, and use of a firearm while committing a felony. The female juvenile subject was charged with armed robbery and conspiracy. Both were transported to the juvenile detention facility.

by Tim Regan — August 29, 2016 at 3:30 pm 0

A restaurant in East Falls Church is looking to shake the idea that French cooking is unhealthy.

Chef Jacques Imperato, who took over Côte d’Or Café (6876 Lee Highway) earlier this year, hopes to show off “the healthier side of French cooking” with seasonal menus and a lighter approach to making food.

Imperato, who attended culinary school in Nice, France and previously owned Chalet de la Paix and Mediterranee restaurants in Arlington and Great Falls, aims to achieve his goal by cooking with seasonal ingredients and low-calorie alternatives in a “modern classic Burgundy style.”

That means instead of making sauces with heavy cream, for instance — butter, cream, flour and cheese are hallmarks of French cuisine — Imperato uses healthier oils.

“The Burgundy cooking style uses less cream than other French regions use in their cooking,” he said. 

In place of processed or prepared foods, the chef prepares dishes with “fruits, vegetables, and herbs that are fresh and in-season.” Last week, Imperato served a dinner where peaches starred as the primary ingredient in every dish, for example.

Grass fed beef is also now on the menu, Imperato noted.

“Grass fed beef is all they had when Burgundy style cooking was concocted and that kind of beef adds an earthy taste to the dishes,” he said. “When you substitute poor corn fed beef the dishes lose the taste that is essential in this style of cooking.”

by Tim Regan — August 18, 2016 at 2:30 pm 0

Derailed Metro train at the East Falls Church station (photo courtesy John Sonderman)

Metro Transit Police are opening an investigation into the cause of July’s train derailment at the East Falls Church Metro station.

About 75 passengers were on an Orange Line train on July 29 when it derailed around 6:30 a.m. The passengers were able to offload “without further incident,” Metro said the day of the derailment.

Though Metro’s safety department was investigating the cause of the incident, Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld asked Metro Transit Police to open a parallel inquiry “following a briefing in which investigators advised him of concerns arising from employee interviews, inspection reports, rail defect tracking, and video recordings,” according to a press release.

“The administrative review uncovered information that warrants further investigation by Metro Transit Police,” Wiedefeld said in a statement.  “While Safety Department investigations determine cause and accountability, it is even more important to understand if other issues must be addressed with the way track inspections and maintenance have been conducted.”

Wiedefeld added that the transit agency uncovered information that “raises potentially serious concerns” in the cause of the derailment.

More about the investigation from a Metro press release:

Metro General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld announced today that the investigation into the East Falls Church derailment, which began as an administrative review by the Safety Department, has been expanded to include an investigation by Metro Transit Police.

Wiedefeld directed the Metro Transit Police Department to open a parallel investigation into the matter following a briefing in which investigators advised him of concerns arising from employee interviews, inspection reports, rail defect tracking, and video recordings.

“The administrative review uncovered information that warrants further investigation by Metro Transit Police,” Wiedefeld said.  “While Safety Department investigations determine cause and accountability, it is even more important to understand if other issues must be addressed with the way track inspections and maintenance have been conducted.”

Metro’s General Counsel, Patricia Y. Lee, has engaged two former Assistant U.S. Attorneys as Special Investigators to support the internal administrative review. Adam Hoffinger, a former AUSA for the Southern District of New York, and Peter White, a former AUSA for the Eastern District of Virginia, as well as the District of Columbia, will work closely with Lee on this matter.  Both have extensive prosecutorial experience with complex cases.

“The public has a right to know that the tracks on which their trains run are being properly inspected,” said Wiedefeld. “The information uncovered to date raises potentially serious concerns, and we will take all actions necessary to get answers and hold people accountable.”

Wiedefeld assured riders today that the SafeTrack program underway (in which Metro tracks are being inspected and repaired) has been and will continue to be subject to quality controls from multiple internal and external groups to ensure all track work meets Metro’s high standards. (At the time of the derailment, East Falls Church interlocking had not yet been addressed as part of SafeTrack.)  Metro is engaging an outside engineering firm to conduct a comprehensive review of its track inspection program.

“While we continue the due diligence to identify the cause of any conditions that may have contributed to this incident, Metro is simultaneously repairing the system and providing better rules, training, quality control and line management,” said Wiedefeld.

Photo courtesy John Sonderman

by ARLnow.com — August 2, 2016 at 9:15 am 0

Rosslyn

Wahlburgers Coming to Ballston — Wahlburgers, the burger chain founded by the show biz Wahlbergs (Mark, Donnie, Paul), is coming to Ballston next year. The eatery will be located near the intersection of Wilson Blvd and N. Glebe Road. [Washington Post]

SER Expanding to Capitol Hill? — The team behind SER restaurant in Ballston — or, at least, part of the team — is opening a new restaurant on Capitol Hill in the former Sona Creamery and Wine Bar space. [Washington Business Journal]

Metro Releases Cause of Derailment — What caused a Metro train to derail near the East Falls Church station on Friday? The transit agency says it was a deteriorated section of track in which the rails became too wide. [Washington Post]

Dark Star Park Day — Yesterday Arlington County held its annual observance of Dark Star Park Day in Rosslyn. The public park, built in 1984, is designed to have its shadows line up once a year, on Aug. 1. [Storify]

County Touts Innovation Recognition — Three Arlington County programs have been recognized for innovation from the Virginia Association of Counties. [Arlington County]

Road Rage on a Bike Trail — Road rage isn’t something that only happens with motorists. Occasionally, it happens among cyclists as well, as this story from an incident on the Mt. Vernon Trail demonstrates. [Storify]

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