Arlington, VA

On Tuesday, Grace Abi-Najm Shea — a co-owner of Lebanese Taverna — was one of those watching in horror as an explosion tore through Beirut. She said they took the day to cry and grieve at the loss that happened in the country her family left years ago. The next morning, they got to work.

The regional Lebanese restaurant chain that started in Arlington in 1979 has since raised nearly $30,000 for the Lebanese Red Cross on GoFundMe.

This weekend, the company is planning to start a deal where $1 from every hummus order at Lebanese Taverna and LebTav locations will be going to the World Central Kitchen. Dany Abi-Najm, Grace’s brother and another co-owner, will be traveling to Beirut with D.C. celebrity chef Jose Andres as part of the World Central Kitchen team to deliver supplies and offer food to those who have been displaced by the explosion.

“It feels good to be doing something,” Shea said. “We mobilized pretty quickly on Wednesday morning. We just needed to do something. It was heartbreaking. My father lives there, he moved back 12 years ago, and the scenes on TV were just too much. I know so many people wanted to help.”

Shea said Lebanon has a history of corruption leading to mistrust of organizations and the government, so she said Lebanese Taverna wanted to be sure the money got to the right places.

“There was the immediate need with the Red Cross and [we’re] addressing the ongoing need starting this weekend with World Central Kitchen,” Shea said.

Shea said while there’s global empathy for Lebanon as it goes through this crisis, many people locally have felt connected to it indirectly via the restaurant that has served Arlington for 41 years.

“We all grew up here and have so much support from so many people,” Shea said. “For them to want to do something for the country we left is very touching.”

Shea said she and her family have concerns about their brother traveling internationally during the pandemic, but that it’s a risk they have to take.

“There’s a thing called COVID going on,” Shea said. “You can’t help other people without taking a risk, really in anything that you do. I think it’s something much bigger than us. There are 300 people displaced from their homes in a minute. One of them being my cousin, but thankfully he has a support system. His home was completely demolished.”

For many Lebanese, Shea said growing up during the civil war left them prepared for the risks.

For those who have donated, Shea had one message to share.

“Thank you,” Shea said. “The number of people who donated and the number of shares is incredible.”

File photo 

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An Alexandria man is in custody after police say he punched a random person walking by in Ballston, and then headbutted and spat on a police officer.

The incident happened around 6 p.m. last night, along N. Randolph and Stuart streets, as well as Wilson Blvd, according to police and witnesses.

“Upon arrival, it was determined that the victim was walking in the area when the suspect allegedly began yelling at him and approached him,” says an Arlington County Police Department crime report. “The victim moved away from the suspect, who then allegedly struck him in the side of the head. The suspect then continued walking away, before arriving officers made contact with him.”

“The suspect was acting disorderly and actively resisted officers while being placed in handcuffs,” the crime report continues. At that point officers on scene called for backup, sending numerous other officers speeding to help, according to scanner traffic at the time.

“As medics attempted to evaluate the suspect, he spit on an officer,” the crime report alleges. “While conducting a search incident to arrest, the suspect struck an officer with his head, causing minor injuries. At booking, the suspect continued to act disorderly and spit on a deputy.”

The 29-year-old man is now facing two counts of Assault and Battery on Law Enforcement and one count of Assault and Battery.

One witness told ARLnow there were actually multiple victims, including himself. The incident, the witness said, started at the Dunkin Donuts on N. Stuart Street.

“He then walked east on Wilson Blvd assaulting random people, yelling racial and homophobic slurs, knocking down trash cans then throwing bottles at cars in the street,” said the witness, who captured a video (below) showing the suspect screaming as police tried to restrain him.

Photo (top) courtesy Stephen Repetski

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After asking customers for suggestions of places to move, Pupatella says it will be staying in Bluemont after all.

The Neapolitan pizzeria said today via social media that its landlord has agreed to not raise the rent — after initially trying to hike it by 40% — and Pupatella will thus be staying put at its original 5104 Wilson Blvd location.

The June 9 Facebook post asking customers to “help us to spread the word and find a new perfect spot” received 350 comments, suggesting a variety of new locations and tactics for negotiating rent. Pupatella today credited the community for helping convince the landlord to keep the rent steady.

Pupatella has been expanding: a second Arlington location opened on S. Walter Reed Drive in December and more outposts are coming to Reston, the Mosaic District and Dupont Circle in D.C.

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There was another crash at the intersection of Old Dominion Drive and Little Falls Road yesterday afternoon.

No one was seriously injured in the wreck, which temporarily closed the eastbound lanes of Old Dominion Drive in the Rock Spring neighborhood. But it’s just the latest in a long string of crashes.

The crash-prone intersection has been the subject of local discussion for years. It was the scene of 27 crashes over a two-year period between mid-2017 and mid-2019, according to Arlington County police.

Minor safety changes rolled out last year — restricting traffic on Little Falls Road to right turns only during the morning and evening rush hours — have not eliminated the danger. In May, a two-vehicle crash at the intersection sent one car careening into the front yard of a house on the corner.

In 2017, a Williamsburg Middle School student led an effort to convince the county to implement safety changes at the Old Dominion and Little Falls intersection. Ultimately, only the rush hour restrictions were deemed appropriate — county staff said that stop signs for traffic on Old Dominion, an arterial street, would result in too much queuing, while a traffic light was not justified because there was not enough traffic on Little Falls Road. (There are existing stop signs for traffic on Little Falls.)

Given the continued collisions, what, if anything, do you think should be done?

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Morning Notes

New N. Va. Unemployment Claims Drop — “New claims for unemployment benefits filed by Northern Virginia residents fell last week to their lowest level since pandemic-related business shutdowns began, even as thousands of area residents continue collecting unemployment.” Arlington had 352 new claims and 5,280 continuing claims. [InsideNova]

Developers ‘Double Dip’ PPP Loans — Companies affiliated with major local developers received million in PPP loans, in some cases with multiple loans backing individual properties in Arlington, D.C. and elsewhere. [Washington Business Journal]

Another Flash Flood Watch TodayUpdated at 8 a.m. — “More thunderstorms with heavy rain are expected today. A Flash Flood Watch is in effect again this afternoon and tonight for much of our area.” [Twitter]

Citizen’s Police Academy Seeking Participants — “The Arlington County Police Department is now accepting applications for the 24th Citizen’s Police Academy (CPA). The CPA is an educational program designed to create better understanding and communication between police and the community they serve.” [Arlington County]

New Mural in Crystal City — “Last week, the @gensler_design team helped JBG SMITH paint a mural at 2250 Crystal Drive in National Landing to remind our neighbors that ‘even through tough times, the sun will always rise.'” [Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Vincent

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Arlington should consider glass-only curbside collection in order to boost its recycling rate, one of the companies that helps recycle the county’s bottles and jars says.

Jim Nordmeyer, vice president of sustainability at bottle maker O-I Glass, said in an interview that while Arlington’s current drop-off containers for glass have been effective, a dedicated collection truck would further increase glass recycling levels amid a drop in glass supplies.

“[Arlington has] a premium stream of glass that comes back into the container industry,” Nordmeyer said. “We’d like to encourage a lot more…. The best way [to do this] is at the curb, glass-only collection.”

By Nordmeyer’s estimates, there is approximately 14 million pounds of glass available for recycling in Arlington annually. If 70% of residents, the national average for curbside recycling, participated in a curbside glass recycling, then nearly 10 million pounds of glass could be collected annually.

In the first year of Arlington’s drop-off glass program, the county says it collected 2 million pounds of glass.

Arlington currently has five drop-off sites, following the removal of glass last year from its curbside recycling list. A rise in the cost of single-stream recycling, where all recyclables are put in the blue bin, was largely behind the move.

Kathryn O’Brien, a spokeswoman for the county’s Department of Environmental Services, told ARLnow the county sees a dedicated curbside collection for glass as financially impractical.

“We have considered glass-only curbside collection and have determined that this option is cost prohibitive,” O’Brien said. “Our internal estimates are that adding curbside glass collection would increase the [Household Solid Waste Rate] by 15%-20%.”

The rate, which is paid by Arlington homeowners who receive curbside collection, is currently $26.58 a month. A 15-20% increase would add around an extra $5 per month, or $60 per year, to the bill.

Nordmeyer said the county can “offset the cost of that second [glass collection] truck with the savings they are getting from reduced fees at the material recovery facility and reduced fees in material going to the landfill.”

Boosting glass recycling levels is especially important after a sharp national decline at the start of the pandemic, Nordmeyer said.

With bars and restaurants shut down and material recovery centers closed to protect employees, glassmakers like O-I lost the recyclable material they rely on to make products. According to Nordmeyer, the average recycled content in each O-I container is around 35%.

O-I receives Arlington glass at its manufacturing plants in Danville and Toano, Virginia. The glass is first transported to Fairfax County from the drop-off bins, then it is taken by glass recycling company Strategic Materials. Once processed, the glass is sold to manufacturers like O-I.

Image via Arlington County

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Aspiring to be in the top 20% of Arlington households by income? You’ll need to make more than three times what someone in Cleveland earns to crack the same top quintile.

Arlington is No. 4 among the 100 largest cities and Census-Designated Places in the U.S. in terms of income needed to be among the top earners, according to new rankings from the website SmartAsset.

The entry level for the top 20% of working households in Arlington is $216,605 in annual income, SmartAsset reports, based on Census data.

The top 3 on the list, ahead of Arlington, are all in the Bay Area:

  1. San Francisco (>$250,000)
  2. Fremont, Calif. ($243,080)
  3. San Jose, Calif. ($219,023)

Arlington’s fellow Amazon headquarters city, Seattle, was No. 5 at $190,348. By contrast, Detroit had the lowest income level for its 20% ($65,603) and Cleveland has the second-lowest ($70,632).

The rankings also highlight income disparities, even in prosperous cities.

“In 2018, the working households that comprised the top 20% of earners nationwide made at least $125,322 throughout the year,” SmartAsset noted. “In contrast, the working households in the bottom 20% of earners made $25,434 or less. As a ratio, top-earning households made almost five times as much as bottom-earning households.”

Photo by Pepi Stojanovski on Unsplash

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The owner of the Arlington Smoke Shop in Green Valley says charges have been dropped against the alleged burglar shot by a store employee.

Jowan Zuber said this week on a GoFundMe page for the employee, Hamzeh Abushariah, that the “mastermind of the burglary” was “allowed to walk free” by prosecutors — while Abushariah remains under house arrest, facing serious charges in connection to the March 29 shooting.

Two other alleged burglars are still facing charges, after police say they broke into the store at 2428 Shirlington Road early in the morning and attempted to steal items. Abushariah was sleeping in a backroom of the store at the time, but woke up and grabbed the store’s gun. Zuber says the person who was shot is being “protected” by prosecutors.

“I can’t believe they’re protecting the criminal,” he said last night on Tucker Carlson Tonight, his second appearance on top-rated the Fox News opinion show. “I’m sure if the criminal broke into their house they would be doing 10 years in jail right now.”

Prosecutors, meanwhile, declined to confirm that charges were dropped against the suspect, who — like the other two — are juveniles.

“Based on the ethical rules which govern lawyers and prosecutors, we are very limited in what we can say about cases — and even more limited in what we can say about juvenile cases,” Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti said Monday, in response to an ARLnow inquiry. “The only question I can answer is that the case of the adult (shooter) is still pending.”

ARLnow previously reported that the third suspect had not been charged and was still “in a medical facility” almost one month after the shooting. Zuber told the Daily Caller that he appeared in court in a wheelchair.

Despite the juvenile’s injuries, Zuber said last night that it was not fair for Abushariah to be facing charges and the alleged organizer of the crime to be free, suggesting without additional evidence that there might be a political motivation.

“This is so sad and so shocking, the justice system is not working in Arlington,” he said. “The prosecutor’s office is very upset that I came on your show and spoke the truth and now they’re looking at the whole thing a different way.”

Following a preliminary hearing on July 30, Abushariah’s case is now heading to Arlington Circuit Court. Zuber wants police to release the full surveillance video of the shooting, which he claims shows the now-free suspect “lunging” at Abushariah before the shooting. Prosecutors say the boy was shot “point blank” in the back.

“I hope that Arlington County will share the video exactly,” Zuber said.

Zuber noted that Abushariah is under house arrest and cannot work or take his kids to the park, but still has to pay more than $1,000 per month in child support and fees for his court-mandated GPS monitor. The GoFundMe for Abushariah has raised more than $10,000 since last night’s “Tucker” show, and now stands at $13,349 of a $100,000 goal.

Zuber said the handling of the burglary case sends a bad message to young people.

“Hey you can go rob and steal and the prosecutor will stand next to you and defend you,” he said. “This is sad for justice, this is injustice.”

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Morning Notes

Va. Rolls Out Contact Tracing App — “Governor Ralph Northam today announced the launch of COVIDWISE, an innovative exposure notification app that will alert users if they have been in close contact with an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19.” [Commonwealth of Virginia, DCist]

Rosslyn Metro Closes During Rush Hour — The Rosslyn Metro station closed during yesterday’s evening rush hour, reportedly for a COVID-related cleaning. In what may be a sign of just how low ridership remains, ARLnow did not receive a single tweet or email tip about the closure of one of the system’s busiest stations. [Twitter]

Amazon Still Planning on Pen Place Purchase — “It will be some time before the public knows what Amazon.com Inc. has in store for Pentagon City’s Pen Place property, but we have a pretty good idea of how much it’ll cost the e-commerce and cloud computing giant to acquire what will become the second phase of HQ2. Amazon is expected to buy the 10-acre plot from JBG Smith Properties for just under $150 million sometime next year.” [Washington Business Journal]

Local Hotel Gets Financial Lifeline — “Berkadia announced today the $19 million refinancing secured for Hilton Garden Inn, Crystal City… The global COVID-19 pandemic has particularly affected the hospitality industry, leaving many owners struggling to secure the financing they need.” [Press Release]

Matchbox Files for Bankruptcy — Local restaurant chain Matchbox, which has a location in Pentagon City, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization. “Despite the bankruptcy, Matchbox says it’s in talks with its landlords to keep the restaurants open and will even look to open more locations in the future, albeit with smaller footprints.” [Washington Business Journal]

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Arlington is now just three shy of 3,000 coronavirus cases, as the rate of new cases continues to climb.

The county added 24 new cases overnight, bringing the cumulative total to 2,997. The number of new cases has been above the seven-day moving average — which now stands at 20 cases per day, or 140 per week, the highest point since June 11 — five out of the past six days.

The growth in cases is being monitored by Arlington’s public health office.

“We are following this increase in cases as reported,” said Arlington Public Health spokeswoman Cara O’Donnell. “We saw a similar increase in cases from the end of June/beginning of July until July 14 and then a subsequent decline. We would prefer a continued decline in cases. Only time will tell if this continues to rise.”

O’Donnell said Arlington residents should remain vigilant and continue following precautions, like wearing a mask, avoiding crowds, and physical distancing.

“It is important to remember that even though Virginia has lessened restrictions on gathering, it doesn’t mean Arlingtonians should be relaxing behaviors we know will prevent spread of the COVID-19 virus — things like staying home as the preferred option, keeping 6 foot distances or more when venturing out for essential needs, and wearing face coverings,” she said. “Public Health continues to work with our community to stress the importance of abiding by these personal behaviors given that community-wide spread is still occurring in Arlington and the region.”

“We know and we’re seeing people want to do things like go out to a restaurant or go on vacation,” O’Donnell continued. “While Virginia has lifted restrictions to allow for some of that to happen, COVID-19 isn’t going away anytime soon as the ongoing cases show.”

Despite the rising case count in Arlington, other metrics are, encouragingly, remaining steady so far.

There have only been five new COVID-related hospitalizations of Arlington residents over the past week, according to Virginia Dept. of Health data, and the PCR test positivity rate remains relatively low at 4.4% with a rise in the number of tests performed.

Additionally, new cases in Northern Virginia as a region have remained steady, with the seven-day moving average of new daily cases currently below 200.

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Morning Notes

Storm Results in Minor Damage — Isaias only caused minor damage in Arlington as it roared past the D.C. area as a tropical storm. Arlington received about 2 inches of rain and some gusty winds as the storm passed. The rain did cause Four Mile Run to top its banks and cover the bike path near Carlin Springs Road. [Twitter]

Thousands of Local Renters Seeking Help — Arlington County “has been besieged with requests for help — in the eight months before the county declared an emergency because of the pandemic, her division received 821 requests for financial- and eviction-prevention assistance. Between March and May, that number was 2,378. The county hired temporary workers to supplement the county workers, who are working from home, and is trying to assist residents, some of whom don’t have Internet access and must rely on sending and receiving forms by mail.” [Washington Post]

Lots of Retail Rent Not Getting Paid — “Retail tenants have been hardest hit during the pandemic, across the board and for JBG Smith. The company collected 58% of rent due from those tenants in the second quarter, compared with nearly 99% for office and 98.5% for multifamily… JBG Smith is exploring the possibility of incorporating ghost kitchens, or food preparation facilities for delivery-only meals, to fill some of the void created by empty retail spaces as a temporary measure.” [Washington Business Journal]

Arlington GOP vs. WaPo Reporter — The Arlington County Republican Committee, in response to a Washington Post article about its chairman’s social media posts, posted the following on Twitter last night: “#FakeNews opinion columnist @psullivan1 was forced to change her slanderous headline… She apologizes for Communist China, but falls all over herself for a headline. lol, Peopermint Patti” [Twitter]

This One Time, Not at Band Camp — “APS has decided to cancel all August activities until further notice. The WL marching band camp for 2020 has been canceled.” [Twitter]

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