When it was founded, the Arlington Neighbors Helping Each Other Through COVID-19 Facebook group was an uplifting place where local residents could ask for help, share information, and connect with one another.
Now, as with just about any online forum of a certain size, the events of 2020 have darkened the skies over the formerly sunny space.
Contentious arguments break out, public shaming is a common occurrence, and at least one member had her employer contacted by someone upset at a post.
Granted, there are still plenty of heartwarming, helpful and innocuous posts. In fact, there are more posts than most people can keep track of — everything from school opening discussions to questions about car dealerships. But the darker side of online forums has nonetheless crept in.
“I think that there has been an increase in divisiveness,” conceded Kellen MacBeth, co-founder of the group, which now has more than 11,000 members. “It is likely driven by several factors — the increased size of the group and that the ‘coming together’ attitude that characterized March and much of April has been wearing off.”
“When the pandemic first hit, people were scared, searching for answers, and ready to help each other survive,” MacBeth continued. “Now that it’s become a somewhat ‘regular’ threat, people have settled back into routines less focused on getting through a crisis as a community and more so just trying to live life in this new normal. We also saw that as the size of the group increased, you inevitably get trolls and other people who join and don’t share the group’s values.”
The divisiveness isn’t just about the group’s size and the pandemic’s progression, though. It’s also about the many unknowns still surrounding COVID-19, leading to a cacophony of competing warnings and indignations, as well as the politicization of the virus. And it’s about those other big 2020 news stories: the Black Lives Matter movement and mass protests, and a heated presidential election.
Even though Arlington is a progressive stronghold, with social justice signs common even in the yards of the county’s more conservative neighborhoods, BLM-related posts in particular seem to frequently lead to online confrontation.
Last week Arlington Magazine published an essay by local resident Olamide Goke-Pariola, who recounted the vitriol she faced while “talking about racial justice and challenging my mostly white neighbors to think critically about their role in white supremacy” in the group.
“They consistently dismissed my lived experience,” she wrote. “One neighbor even told me my comments were ‘noise.'”
The “Arlington Neighbors” group is not alone in turning into a dumpster fire at times, however.
Things got so bad at the popular Fairlington Appreciation Society neighborhood Facebook group, in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, that its moderators shut it down for good. Before it closed, the group hosted battle royales on posts about social justice, with online shouting matches that were a digital counterpart to the battle over signs on a bridge playing out in the physical world nearby.
Even the usually chipper Mothers of North Arlington email listserv started to see moms turning on one another. The group faced accusations that it was dismissive of calls for social justice during the George Floyd protests and that it deleted a Black woman’s Facebook post on the subject.
ARLnow has seen its own share of added divisiveness. A half dozen commenters have been permanently banned for a pattern of racist comments over the past couple of months. Others have been placed on comment timeouts for engaging in extended flame wars. And there has been an uptick in criticism of our articles, with commenters on the site and Facebook questioning our coronavirus reporting and savaging our reporting about multiple COVID-19 cases at a private swim club.
The design process for the revamped Metropolitan Park near Amazon’s future Pentagon City offices is nearing the finish line.
A final draft design for the park was presented last week, revealing a hybrid of the “Forest Walk” and “Social Gardens” concepts previously detailed by James Corner Field Operations, which designed New York City’s famous High Line. Amazon is funding the design work for the park, which is adjacent to its future HQ2.
The updated design is a “more social version” of the Forest Walk concept that was generally favored in the latest round of public feedback, designers said. It includes:
- Meandering paths
- A “hammock clearing” on the forest walk
- The possibility of public art along the paths
- An overlook
- A central green for gatherings and events
- A day care garden near HQ2
- A “meadow lounge”
- A play garden with playground equipment
- A “community table” for dining amid nature
- A cafe terrace
- A 4,000 square foot dog park with separate areas for large and small dogs
- An Amazon banana stand
The county and the designers are now gathering feedback on the synthesized design, before making some tweaks and creating a final design for consideration by the County Board in September.
(Updated at 4:25 p.m.) The well-known design firm working to reimagine Metropolitan Park in Pentagon City has revealed some of its initial design concepts.
James Corner Field Operations, the firm behind New York City’s High Line, presented the designs in a virtual public meeting last week, alongside representatives from Amazon — which is footing the bill for the design work and park renovations — and Arlington’s Dept. of Parks and Recreation.
The current park, nestled in the middle of a group of apartment building and Amazon’s future HQ2, is largely flat grassy spaces, alongside trees, roads, and sidewalks. Its primary users are the apartment residents and their dogs; Amazon is planning to use part of the park for construction staging.
With Amazon moving in in a few years, however, it’s set for some big upgrades.
“As Amazon has said from the outset we want our Arlington HQ to become a destination that will draw people in, meet the needs of the neighborhood and our employees, and help build a sense of community,” said Brooke Oberwetter, Head of Community Affairs for HQ2. “I’m excited about the design concepts that are being put forward for consideration… with your feedback and ideas we can make sure this amazing space is an asset for the entire neighborhood for years to come.”
There were two overall design themes presented: “social gardens” and “the forest walk.” Some of the potential park features include:
- A central lawn could host 500-1,000 people for events like movie nights
- A children’s garden near HQ2 daycare center
- A fitness garden with exercise opportunities
- A game lawn with lawn bowling, bocce and badminton
- A dog run for both large and small dogs
- A hammock garden
- A play garden
- A community garden and orchard table for outdoor dining among fruit trees
- A cafe terrace and culinary garden with outdoor dining and restaurants in front of one of the HQ2 buildings
- A main promenade, that’s more of a meandering path in the “forest” design
- Several pieces of public art, some of which might be along a shady and meandering art walk
- A large shade trellis that can be used for festivals, markets and a banana stand
A survey conducted as part of the design process found that the top five park uses requested by residents were “sit and lounge,” “enjoy nature,” “stroll and walk,” “attend events,” and “dine and drink.”
The designs call for the removal of on-street parking spaces and “redundant” sidewalks from the roads that run through the park, and the addition of new trees and vegetation. With that and an expansion of the park into part of the HQ2 property, the new Metropolitan Park would have more than 100,000 square feet of space, according to the presentation.
County May Get Million from CARES Act — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam “is considering a plan to distribute $3 billion of CARES cash using a formula that considers in economic need, a way to send more money to places like Lee County or Petersburg and less money to places like Alexandria and Arlington.” [@MichaelLeePope/Twitter, WVTF]
Arlington Trail Usage Way Up — “Trail counts are up 50% above average, on the weekends. Try an alternative route. Protect yourself and others by avoiding crowded trails.” [@BikeArlington/Twitter]
Dems Hold County Board Forum — Blue Virginia has video and notes from Sunday’s County Board special election candidates forum, held by Arlington Democrats. [Blue Virginia]
ACPD: Man Threw Brick Through Car Window — “At approximately 12:10 p.m. on April 30, police were dispatched to the report of destruction of property just occurred. Upon arrival, it was determined that the victim was driving on Columbia Pike when the suspect allegedly threw a brick through the rear window of the vehicle, causing it to shatter. The victim was not injured. Arriving officers located the suspect in the area and took him into custody without incident.” [Arlington County]
Marymount Faculty Member Makes ‘Fashion Masks’ — “Marymount University faculty member William Allen, an award-winning fashion designer, is using his creative talents and those of his students to help boost the amount of crucial PPE available at the Arlington Free Clinic.” [Press Release]
Sen. Kaine Volunteering at AFAC Today — “On Monday, May 4, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine will visit the Arlington Food Assistance Center, where he will meet with staff, tour the center, and volunteer to distribute food. The center has seen increasing demand amid the coronavirus pandemic and currently distributes groceries to over 2,400 families each week in Arlington.”
TSA Workers Create Food Bank at DCA — “Transportation Security Administration employees at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) have established a free food and toiletries pantry to assist employees in the airport community who have been laid off or seen their work hours and paychecks reduced due to the significant decrease in travelers as a result of the pandemic.” [Press Release]
Photo courtesy @EthanDevries_/Twitter
There are now 312 known coronavirus cases in Arlington, an increase of 32 since the day before.
The latest data from the Virginia Dept. of Health also shows 4,509 reported cases, 772 hospitalizations, and 121 deaths statewide, as of Friday. Arlington’s neighbors Alexandria and Fairfax County are now reporting 174 and 777 cases respectively.
Arlington will be hosting a live town hall meeting at noon today (Friday) online and on local cable TV. More from the county:
On Friday, we’re hosting a live town hall to discuss Arlington’s response to COVID-19. You can ask questions on all aspects of this health and economic emergency by joining us on Facebook or by texting 571-356-9267. The town hall will also be live-streamed to YouTube, the County website and Arlington TV (Comcast 1085/Verizon 39).
(Updated at 12:25 p.m.) Five arterial streets in Arlington are being considered as candidates for a Complete Streets overhaul.
The county’s Complete Streets program adds safety features to roadways that improve the experience of road users other than drivers, including pedestrians and cyclists. The changes are usually made in conjunction with repaving projects.
The streets that are up for a makeover later this year are:
- Wilson Boulevard — N. Larrimore Street to McKinley Road (Dominion Hills/Boulevard Manor)
- Potomac Avenue — S. Crystal Drive to Alexandria City Line (Potomac Yard)
- Clarendon Boulevard — N. Nash Street to N. Oak Street (Clarendon-Courthouse/Radnor/Fort Myer Heights)
- N. Lorcom Lane — Old Dominion Drive to N. Taylor Street
- Military Road — Lorcom Lane to Old Dominion Drive
At an online open house scheduled for Monday, April 6, Arlington County staff members will reveal more details about the project and how community members can share their experiences.
The virtual public meeting is scheduled to run from 6:30-7:30 p.m. via Microsoft Teams Live Event. No account is needed to join.
Complete Streets upgrades may include “sidewalk expansion or obstruction elimination,” “curb ramp reconstruction,” “crosswalk and signal enhancements,” “pedestrian-scale lighting,” “improved access to transit stops” and bike lanes, per the county’s website.
Such changes have been implemented in other parts of Arlington, though they’ve also faced some public pushback from local residents concerned about traffic impacts. One Complete Streets project in neighboring Alexandria has become a legendarily contentious issue.
Photos via Google Maps
Another Celeb Backs Ballston-Based Hungry — “Arlington catering platform Hungry Marketplace has raised $20 million from actor Kevin Hart, former Whole Foods co-CEO Walter Robb and others to fuel a 23-city expansion as the company’s revenues grow into the tens of millions of dollars.” [Forbes, Washington Business Journal]
Public Meeting for Athletic Field Feedback — “Help Arlington County ensure its athletic fields are utilized effectively and efficiently… Whether you play on an organized team or enjoy one of our many fields for casual recreation, share your thoughts and help us determine community needs.” [Arlington County]
Nearby: Region’s First Coronavirus Cases — “Maryland’s first three cases of coronavirus disease are Montgomery County residents who took an international trip together, Gov. Larry Hogan said Thursday. He said he has declared a state of emergency for Maryland, which has been preparing for the first cases of the disease.” [Bethesda Beat, WTOP]
Nearby: New Inova Facility Near Potomac Yard — “Inova Health System plans to open a new health care facility on part of Oakville Triangle, giving another try to the 13-acre site on Richmond Highway in Alexandria across from a planned Virginia Tech campus and a short distance from Amazon.com Inc.’s second headquarters.” [Washington Business Journal]
Dorsey Hasn’t Returned Union Donation — Arlington County Board and WMATA board member Christian Dorsey, “who promised three months ago to repay a $10,000 campaign donation that violated the board’s ethics policy, has not yet refunded the money and is likely to be replaced as Virginia’s representative on the regional board. Dorsey said Wednesday that he is working on a wire transfer to return the money to a transit union that routinely negotiates with Metro.” [Washington Post]
Beyer Slams Impeachment Trial — “Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) issued the following statement… ‘Today Senate Republicans ended their impeachment show trial. It will go down as one of the most craven events in American history.'” [Press Release]
County Board Race Fundraising Update — “The two Democrats vying for Arlington County Board entered 2020 with roughly the same amount of cash on hand, according to figures from the Virginia Department of Elections. Incumbent Libby Garvey had $16,823 in her campaign kitty as of Dec. 31, while challenger Chanda Choun had $16,155, according to data reported after the Jan. 15 filing deadline.” [InsideNova]
West Glebe Road Bridge Open House — “The deteriorating West Glebe Road Bridge, on the Arlington border near I-395, will be the topic of an open house next week. The bridge is currently closed to large vehicles weighing more than 5 tons due to structural deficiencies. It’s set for a major rehabilitation project, likely starting later this year.” [ALXnow]
Forum to Discuss Repealing Second Amendment — “Encore Learning will present a forum on ‘Repeal the Second Amendment: The Case for a Safer America’ on Monday, Feb. 10 at 3 p.m. at Central Library. The speaker, American University professor Allan Lichtman, will discuss his perspectives on gun safety and will argue for national legislation and the potential revision of the U.S. Constitution.” [InsideNova]
Dirt Closes Restaurants in Miami, Too — “On Thursday at 11 p.m., employees were told via a text message from DIRT Regional Director of Operations Aaron Licardo that both the Sunset Harbour and Brickell locations were closing for good. The two Miami spots closed on the heels of the Virginia location shuttering; that restaurant, located in Ballston, lasted less than a year. The message employees received claimed the company ‘found no other way to keep these locations open.'” [Miami Herald]
The Virginia Dept. of Transportation is studying possible upgrades to Route 50 between Glebe Road and Fillmore Street.
The 0.7 mile stretch, which is notably crash prone and difficult for drivers making left turns and pedestrians trying to cross the street, is a candidate for what VDOT has dubbed “Strategically Targeted Affordable Roadway Solutions.” Possible upgrades range from new turn lanes to pedestrian enhancements to — perhaps — even roundabouts.
VDOT is holding a public information session about the possible changes on Thursday (Nov. 14) from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Thomas Jefferson Middle School (125 S. Old Glebe Road).
More from VDOT:
The concepts being studied will be based on public input and may include improving turn lanes, traffic signal timing and operations, and access management for properties and streets along the corridor. Other concepts being studied may also include pedestrian, bicycle and transit enhancements, turn restrictions and “Innovative Intersections” such as roundabouts and interchanges. Stop by between 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. to view displays and learn more about the project. A presentation will begin at 7 p.m. Project staff will be available to answer your questions.
“This stretch of Route 50 has long backups and delays during weekday peak commute times and several high crash locations due to the high number of access and conflict points,” VDOT said on a webpage for the study. “Route 50 averages 62,000 vehicles per day within the study limits.”
An online survey for the project asks, among other things, which multimodal facilities are needed along the Route 50 corridor. The multiple-choice options include sidewalks, crosswalks, pedestrian signals, shared-use bicycle lanes, bus shelters and a park and ride lot.
Local Dems Tout Big Wins — “Heading into the critical 2020 presidential race, we’re especially excited about the tremendous grassroots enthusiasm that fueled Democratic victories statewide. This historic victory belongs to the grassroots activists as much as it belongs to the Democratic Party.” [Press Release]
Leaf Collection Schedule Announced — Courthouse, Clarendon and other neighborhoods are on tap for Arlington County’s first vacuum leaf collection pass of the season, starting Monday. [Arlington County]
Amazon Gives to Some Local Pols — “In the Democratic leadership ranks, House Democratic Caucus Chair Del. Charniele Herring, D-Alexandria, received $1,000. Her district is just outside of Amazon’s new Arlington home. And the company sent $1,500 to Sen. Janet Howell, D-Reston, and $1,000 to Del. Patrick Hope, D-Arlington, who both represent Arlington neighborhoods a stone’s throw from HQ2.” [Washington Business Journal]
Walgreens Applying for Sign Permits — Updated at 10:15 a.m. — Walgreens signs are going up on former Rite Aid stores across Arlington, after the chain acquired stores from its drug store competitor nearly two years ago. [Twitter]
Investment for Company With Arlington HQ — “CoreMedia, a global content management platform and developer of CoreMedia Content Cloud, is excited to announce that it has successfully partnered with OpenGate Capital, a global private equity firm, on a majority growth investment… Terms of the investment were not disclosed.” [PRNewswire via Potomac Tech Wire]
First Snow Possible Next Week — “Back-to-back Arctic cold fronts are predicted to sweep across the eastern United States over the next week, the second of which has a small chance to squeeze out some snowflakes in the Washington region late Monday and/or Tuesday.” [Capital Weather Gang]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
Planned renovations at Marcey Road Park are up for public discussion next week.
Arlington County is scheduled to host a community meeting about the project on Thursday, October 3 from 6-7:30 at the Potomac Overlook Regional Park auditorium.
The three-acre park at 272 N. Marcey Road, near the entrance to the Potomac Overlook trails, is home to two tennis courts, a tennis practice wall, and a basketball court.
The renovation will replace the park’s existing amenities, according to the project website.
“County staff has been canvassing the community and park users to determine what people are using in the park,what they like, and what they’d like changed,” said parks department spokesman Susan Kalish.
Following next week’s meeting, the project staff will hold another community meeting later in the fall to present draft designs.
Construction is set to begin by spring 2020 and completed by the end of that year.
Photo via Google Maps