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DGS Delays Safety Installations at Eastern Market

The linchpin of Eastern Market (225 Seventh St. SE) security strategy has been the installation of bollards to inhibit vehicular terrorism. They were intended as just part of the implementation of a larger, workable emergency response plan for the busy weekend outdoor market.

Discussion on the subject took place during a hybrid meeting of the Eastern Market Community Advisory Committee (EMCAC) held online and in the North Hall of Eastern Market (225 Seventh St. SE) on March 27.

The installation of the bollards was scheduled for last November but was peremptorily cancelled. Department of General Services (DGS) Market Manager Barry Margeson reported on the decision at the Nov. 29, 2023 meeting EMCAC, but no additional planning has been presented until now.

DGS is responsible for the management of the indoor market as well as outdoor vending on 200 block of Seventh Street, the plaza outside the market building and on the plaza outside the William Rumsey Aquatic Center (635 North Carolina Ave. SE).

According to Margeson, the cancellation is due to the increased cost. DGS has revised plans and will now buy fewer of them and install them at strategic locations at the Market. But, no date has been set for this installation and no written plan has so far been presented to EMCAC.

The Market Emergency Response Plan (ERP) has been the focus at  any number of EMCAC meetings since an incident in June 2023 seems to have slipped as a priority. The DGS plan, which was much improved by EMCAC, languishes today as a working document.

A chief critique by EMCAC members is that the proposed DGS plan is more suited to an office building than an open market. There were additional key questions raised, such as to how to manage a large crowd during an active incident.

EMCAC member Monte Edwards raised the issue at the end of the regular business. There was a brief back and forth among the members with Margeson finally suggesting that he send around a draft with changes and that EMCAC adopt this as a working plan which in turn could be changed and improved at a later date.

Burger closed the discussion for which there seemed to be a budding consensus by suggesting strongly that EMCAC get something done by the end of the month.

An existing security plan exists but does not address the particular needs of the market. In the meantime there are no bollards and the new emergency response plan continues to be circulated among EMCAC members.

Rumsey Center Upgrade

EMCAC Chair Chuck Burger dove right into his report which included an update on the $25 million dollars set aside by the City Council for a major upgrade of the William Rumsey Aquatic Center. Burger noted these funds are not impacted by the current budget negotiations.

Rumsey Pool is a public swimming pool adjacent to the Eastern Market. Its outdoor plaza is used extensively on weekends as part of the Market.

Burger said that the Department of Parks and Recreation (DC DPR) is preparing documents for the next stage which is expected to involve multiple community meetings over the next six months. “People are working on it,” he said, imploring attendees to monitor the situation. “It will impact the Market,“ Burger said.

Since Burger’s elevation to Chair, he has pushed for more  in-person meetings and contact with DC Council members as well as efforts to strengthen EMCAC’s relationship with Director of the Department of General Service (DGS) Delano Hunter.

Those efforts are moving in the right direction, Burger said. “He seems to be very willing to reach out and discuss things  with the community,” the Chair noted, calling Hunter “a director the like of which we have not had who solves problems and  meets the challenges.”

Burger suggested a meet and greet with Hunter even as he also schedules meetings with councilmembers for tours of the Market. He has adopted the strategy hoping the increased contact will pay off as the annual budget is negotiated and the Market’s needs are discussed.

Market Manager’s Report

Market Manager  Barry Margeson reported six month revenue of $380,430 —not a roaring increase, but reflecting the steady growth of post-COVID revenues.

Margeson pointed out that the next six months ought to dramatically improve. “January and February are our slowest months and March and the others are our biggest months,” he told EMCAC. “I am enthusiastic about how this is looking.”

Margeson added that there are currently $240,000 dollars in bookings on the calendar at the North Hall with another $10,000 expected, saying the growth was “exciting.”

Peter J Waldron is a long time resident and former Chair of  ANC6B. Waldron has been reporting on the Eastern Market for more than fifteen years and can be reached at peter218@prodigy.net.

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