Alexandria, VA

It was a historic week in Alexandria. Here are some of the highlights.

President Joe Biden visited the Neighborhood Health COVID-19 vaccine site at Virginia Theological Seminary on Tuesday, just before announcing that the date for adults to get access to the vaccine has been moved to April 19.

The Alexandria School Board, on Thursday night, voted to change the name of T.C. Williams High School to Alexandria City High School.

The School Board also voted unanimously to reduce the distancing requirement in ACPS schools from six feet to three feet, all the while community support is growing to expand in-person instruction to more than the current two days a week. Summer school is currently planned to begin in July and will be four days a week, and ACPS is planning on reopening to five days a week at the beginning of the next school year.

Our top story was on the T.C. Williams Titans junior varsity football team walking off the field after an incident with the Robinson Rams on Monday night. Robinson Rams players allegedly spit at and made a racial slur against T.C. players. The incident has prompted Fairfax County Public Schools to announce a “stand-down” meeting for all athletic teams and coaches to discuss “appropriate behaviors required to play sports in FCPS.”

Additionally, six Alexandria Police officers were placed on administrative duties after a chase suspect died while in custody. Police responded to a call for shots fired in the 800 block of North Patrick Street, and multiple buildings and vehicles were struck. The driver of the vehicle crashed on Interstate 295, and then jumped over an overpass barrier and fell more than 20 feet and was tased by police, arrested and later died.

Important Stories

Top Stories

  1. JUST IN: T.C. Williams JV football team walks off field after alleged racial slur, spitting incident
  2. BREAKING: Shots fired in Old Town leads to chase that ends in D.C.
  3. JUST IN: President Biden set to visit Alexandria vaccination site Tuesday
  4. National Park Service announces George Washington Parkway to go on a diet
  5. Neighborhood Health vaccinating thousands at sites in Alexandria, Arlington and Fairfax County
  6. JUST IN: Woman arrested after fight on King Street Metro station platform
  7. UPDATE: $8,500 reported stolen in terrifying West End robbery
  8. JUST IN: President Biden visits COVID-19 vaccine site at Virginia Theological Seminary
  9. COVID-19 update: Alexandria moves into vaccination phase 1C
  10. JUST IN: Six Alexandria Police officers put on administrative duties after chase suspect dies
  11. Fairfax County man arrested for three burglaries, released three days later

Have a safe weekend!

Photo via T.C. Williams Football Boosters/Facebook

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After a number of its Old Town properties were hit by bullets Tuesday night, the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority announced it is installing security cameras.

“We are installing cameras at our properties to send the signal that if you commit a crime at an ARHA site there’s a good chance a camera will capture it,” ARHA CEO Keith Pettigrew said in a statement. “During our regular virtual townhalls, residents raised their concerns. That’s when we decided to do two things, install more cameras and identify several residents at each property to join a committee to start sharing information with each other to improve their neighborhoods by getting more involved.”

Security cameras have now been installed in the areas of Samuel Madden, Hopkins-Tancel Courts and along Yale Drive. Pendleton Park and Chatham Square will soon follow. Additionally, ARHA said that security cameras were installed at Andrew Adkins and the Ladrey senior high-rise several years ago.

Alexandria Police Department has also agreed to install “resident police officers” in ARHA communities.

“The idea to expand camera coverage came out of a conversation with resident leaders,” Pettigrew said. “That led to a more formal resident safety committee, and they have been fantastic in working with us and Alexandria city leadership.”

There has been an uptick in shootings over the past year, and many occurred at or near ARHA properties, some of which are near the Braddock Road Metro Station. Last fall, Alexandria police asked for the public’s help in identifying suspects.

Lauren Dupina, president of the ARHA’s Princess Square neighborhood group in Old Town West, said that the work will bridge the gap between police and Black and brown communities.

“The cameras will definitely be another tool in helping keep crime down, as long as they work, and these are new camera systems so they should work,” Dupina said. “They will make residents feel safer and cause people with bad intentions to think twice.”

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A number of residents of the Ladrey Senior Highrise Apartments in Old Town received their second doses of the coronavirus vaccine on Saturday.

Delores Tyler was one of about 90 residents who got her second shot.

“I was nervous a little bit, but I said no, I’ll go ahead and take it,” Tyler said. “We also are so appreciative that they were able to come to us. It made it so convenient and now I feel safer.”

The first doses were administered last month to the residents in the complex, which is managed by the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority.

The shots were facilitated by the Alexandria Health Department and administered over the course of three hours by pharmacists from VanDorn Pharmacy in the Ladrey community room at 300 Wythe Street. Some residents who were hesitant to get the vaccine will be visited by the pharmacists to get inoculated over the next several weeks.

“I’ve known a couple people that had the virus, and they were saying how bad it was,” said resident Caroleather Brown. “I feel a little more comfortable going out now.”

ARHA CEO Keith Pettigrew thanked the health department for the help. The nonprofit is reportedly reaching out to seniors at its other sites on vaccination eligibility.

“We wanted our seniors at Ladrey vaccinated as quickly and conveniently as possible to ensure they are safe and protected,” said Pettigrew. “Since the beginning of the pandemic we have implemented several policies, including limiting the number of visitors allowed in the building, to minimize the risk of contracting the virus. This vaccination POD (point of dispensing) event was an extension of that policy. I feel grateful to our partners, and particularly Dr. Stephen Hearing, AHD’s Director, who helped us coordinate this service.”

Virginia is currently in Phase 1B, which allows anyone 65 and older to get prioritized for the vaccine. Also included are essential workers, such as police, fire and EMS officials, Alexandria City Public Schools staff and people ages 16 and older with underlying medical conditions.

In Alexandria, there is also a long waiting list for eligible residents to get vaccinated.

As of last Friday, 17,099 residents have received at least one dose and 5,799 residents have been fully vaccinated. Residents can pre-register for the COVID-19 vaccine in Alexandria here.

Photo via ARHA

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Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority reopened its waitlist for affordable housing in the city and within two days the organization said around 45,000 individuals had applied.

The surge in demand for affordable housing comes after months of job loss and high unemployment. Those numbers are gradually recovering, but are still significantly higher than pre-pandemic figures. The opening also comes after almost a decade of the organization sorting through a backlog.

ARHA said in a press release that it last opened its waiting list for one week in August 2011 and receiving 10,000 applications.

“People are hurting,” said ARHA CEO Keith Pettigrew. “I receive emails every day wanting to know if housing vouchers or ARHA housing is available. These are not just people who are out of work. These are primarily people who have jobs but can’t afford to live in Alexandria right now.”

ARHA said that of the 45,000 applications, approximately 32,000 were for ARHA administered units while 13,000 were for housing choice voucher programs — programs that help subsidize rents in privately owned homes.

Notably, the total number of applications includes those that will be disqualified for coming in at an income above ARHA levels.

“But even after that process, a very long waiting list will remain,” ARHA said.

ARHA is early in the process of redeveloping many properties, though some like the Andrew Adkins development have hit snags along the way even as nearby private developments move forward.

“In each case, the ARHA goal would be to include a one-for-one replacement of current units for low-income households and an equal number of new units for working families and market rate apartments,” the organization said. “The idea is to create sustainable developments where lower-income families live in the same communities as those with middle-class incomes.”

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The Alexandria Redevelopment & Housing Authority (ARHA) is opening the Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8) and Public Housing waitlists, according to a press release.

From Jan. 11-Jan. 13, Alexandrians can submit applications for public housing. due to the pandemic, ARHA will only accept applications electronically. Exceptions can be made for those who are disabled and unable to fill out applications electronically.

ARHA faced some criticism from residents early in the pandemic from threats of eviction for violating quarantine, though ultimately the resident association praised ARHA leadership for swift action and clear communication with local residents.

According to the ARHA website:

  • You must be at least 18 years of age to apply.
  • There are no fees for applying to ARHA’s wait lists.
  • Applications will be placed on the waiting list by preference, then by the date and time the application is submitted.
  • All information provided is subject to verification. Therefore, applying does not guarantee that the application will be accepted.
  • ARHA does not provide emergency housing.

Staff photo by James Cullum

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A 33-year-old Alexandria man is being held without bond for stealing a car in the West End last month and being a fugitive of justice.

The woman that he lives with in Old Town also admitted to police that she forged a $300 check that the suspect gave her earlier this year, although she has not yet been charged.

The black Nissan Altima was stolen from a parking lot in the Parkstone Alexandria apartments (3001 Park Center Drive) during the overnight hours of September 7. It was found two days later a block away from where the suspect lives in an Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority home in the 3200 block of S. 28th Street.

Fingerprints in the car were matched to the suspect, and police discovered that he lives with a woman under investigation of forging a check for $300 from a stolen Nissan Juke last May, according to a search warrant affidavit.

Police contacted the female suspect, and she was escorted by the male suspect to an ARHA office at 401 Wythe Street. There, she was interviewed alone by police and admitted that her roommate “provided her a stolen check which she then used to fraudulently withdraw $300 from the victim’s account.”

The woman has not been charged and the case remains under investigation, according to police.

Police then called the male suspect on October 13 and he agreed to an interview at Alexandria Police headquarters, but never showed up.

He was arrested on November 2 and charged with receiving/buying stolen goods and being a fugitive from justice for missing two court appearances after being charged with stealing a car last year.

He is currently being held without bond and has two court dates next month.

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Even though it’s just three blocks away, Heather Lesley doesn’t let her teenage daughter walk to the Braddock Road Metro station to meet her when she gets back from work.

“I don’t feel comfortable letting her do that anymore,” Lesley told ALXnow. “My neighbor has bullet holes in the brick wall of their home.”

Ever since the pandemic started, Lesley has noticed an uptick in violent crimes in her neighborhood in the Parker Gray section of the city, and it was only three weeks ago that she called the police after hearing four gunshots. She’s a U.S. Air Force veteran with two kids and her husband is deployed overseas with the Army until next year and is now considering moving from the area.

“I was in bed watching a movie, with two teenagers downstairs,” Lesley said. “I went to my back window and I couldn’t see anything, because last summer a man got shot and made his way to our mailbox area in our homeowners association, and that’s where EMTs found him, so I knew to look for something.”

The Alexandria Police Department’s strategy to combat the uptick in violent activity is to increase their presence in the area, and Lesley and her neighbors have noticed more APD cruisers parked at the Post Office at 1100 Wythe Street. Police are also asking for information from those who have witnessed some of these incidents to call 703-746-4444 or 911 in an emergency.

“Clearly we are concerned about the uptick in firearm-related incidents in Parker Gray/Old Town, and around the City,” Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson told ALXnow. “The Police Department has had increased presence, both marked and unmarked in the neighborhoods for the past several weeks and that will continue.”

According to a community crime map, there have been five aggravated assaults in Old Town this month alone, dozens of “other” assaults, and two residential burglaries. Also this month, Wilson appealed to the police to do something about an increase in vehicle thefts.

There have been reports of four shootings in Old Town since July 9. There was also a stabbing in the area on July 17 and a violent carjacking on Euille Street on July 14One suspect was arrested after a July 11 shooting, although police would not release their identity since it would impede the investigation. In June, a man drove himself to the hospital after being shot in the 700 block of North Fayette Street.

As previously reported, there was also a crime spree in the city during the height of the pandemic during a reduction of police presence. Additionally, on March 31, a 17-year-old was shot in what police suspect was a targeted attack. The victim was playing basketball on Tancil Court and his mother later refused to let him talk to police out of fear for his safety, according to police records.

Many of these incidents have occurred within a mile of each other, sometimes within blocks.

On July 30, Police Chief Michael L. Brown conducted an in-person community meeting at Charles Houston Recreation Center to talk about the incidents. He was joined by Wilson and City Manager Mark Jinks.

“The other difficult thing about these shootings is that they’re not happening on a regular basis, or a scheduled basis, they’re happening at a variety of times,” Brown said. “We’re trying to stop this trend.”

Many of the incidents are occurring around Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority public housing, and for the last several months the ARHA board of directors has had special virtual meetings every week to discuss developments during the pandemic.

“It’s unfortunate that these things are happening but we have increased policing that we feel will make a huge difference,” said ARHA Board Member Willie Bailey, who is also a former city councilman. “We have stepped up security at the properties by installing more cameras. We have also started an ARHA Resident Safety Committee where the residents can discuss their issues and have a say in the safety and well-being of their community.”

Lesley’s husband comes home next summer from his deployment, and she says she will make up her mind to move between now and then.

“We love this area, we love this neighborhood and Old Town,” she said. “We love our neighbors, but it’s beginning to be too much.”

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Morning Notes

Beyer Warns of Trump Election Conspiracy in November — “Trump’s threat to defy the will of the American people by refusing to accept election results in November is particularly alarming given what is happening in Portland. Trump is not a king. All who swore an oath to defend the Consit(u)tion must reject this, regardless of party.” [Twitter]

November Election Less Than 100 Days Away — “Election day is just a little over 100 days away. For the first time in Virginia history, you can request a ballot in the mail with no excuse required!” [Twitter]

More Alexandria Playgrounds Reopen — “The City of Alexandria announced this evening that its playgrounds as well as those on Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) property have reopened to the public. They were shuttered in March as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.” [Zebra]

Seazante` Williams Oliver Named Principal at George Mason Elementary School — Oliver is a familiar face around George Mason. She has served at the school as assistant principal since 2012, and just last month, became interim principal. She assumes the duties of principal on July 20. [Zebra]

Library Hosting Virtual ‘Rocknoceros’ Concert at 11 a.m. Today — “Children will enjoy bopping along to Williebob and Boogie Bennie’s catchy tunes. All ages.” [Alexandria Library]

ARHA Board Meeting This Wednesday — “The meetings will immediately convene in Executive Session to discuss important matters.” [City of Alexandria]

New Job: Dog Walker/Pet Sitter — “We are currently hiring exceptional pet sitters and dog walkers to join our wonderful team. This position is fun and rewarding as you get to enjoy the outdoors, get exercise and be loved by amazing local dogs, cats and other companion animals!” [Indeed]

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The Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority (ARHA) is planning to sponsor COVID-19 testing later this week.

“ARHA will be sponsoring COVID-19 testing for residents of Ladrey (300 Wythe Street) and Annie B. Rose (399 Pendleton Street) buildings on Thursday, July 16, from 8-11 a.m. in the parking lot behind the building,” said Rose Williams Boyd, spokesperson for the organization.

Both Annie B. Rose House and Ladrey Senior Highrise Apartments are senior housing locations.

The testing is part of a joint partnership between ARHA, the City, the Alexandria Health Department and Neighborhood Health. Local seniors have been particularly vulnerable to the virus, with all but one of the city’s 57 deaths being locals over 50. The majority of those deaths have been in long term care facilities.

Boyd said there will be no cost for the testing with 275 kits available. If more testing is needed, Boyd said it could be continued on Saturday, July 18.

While there was early frustration from residents at some of the measures ARHA took to isolate residents in the early stages of the pandemic, some have since praised the organization for decisive action in response to COVID-19.

Photo via ARHA

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After some early concerns and criticisms, the Alexandria Redevelopment Housing Authority‘s resident community praised the organization’s leadership and swift action through the pandemic, and vice-versa.

Kevin Harris, the president of the Public Housing Resident Association in Alexandria, praised ARHA’s leadership and CEO Keith Pettigrew in particular. Harris and Jeremy McClayton, an associate organizer with Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement, said it was a stark contrast to earlier experiences with ARHA.

“In ARHA is used to be that [residents] had to organize to make sure people weren’t living in black mold,” McClayton said. “It’s been a big turnaround.”

Harris said those residents organizing under the old ARHA also timed perfectly with new leadership coming into the association.

“It was a perfect storm,” Harris said. “As we were organizing, there was a changeover in ARHA and Keith really started out on the right foot… The pandemic wasn’t good, but as much as you’re able to help people: they did.”

So far, ARHA has no confirmed deaths from COVID-19. Pettigrew said he remains cautious about the path forward and a potential second wave, but said it was an overabundance of caution that left ARHA in a better place than some regional partners with the pandemic started.

“In terms of PPE, when [coronavirus] first hit in March and I told the staff we needed to get PPE like masks, even hazmat suits,” Pettigrew said. “At first, people were like ‘masks and suits?’ Then a month later were calling like ‘do you have any extras?'”

Pettigrew credits some of his caution to the five years he spent working in housing in New Orleans, which he said helped prepare him for the kind of mobilization and flexibility the pandemic required. Hurricanes, Pettigrew said, were also a situation where housing organizations needed to mobilize and rapidly improvise to deal with changing situations.

Harris said one of the most helpful areas ARHA implemented rapidly was pushing back rent due dates and recertification — which meant that anyone who lost their income could file a notice to ARHA and they would not be charging rent. ARHA not only offered rapid and accessible online recertification, but Harris credited the organization with working to make sure residents throughout the various communities understood what was needed and could be guided through the process.

“It was a matter of getting the information,” Harrs said. “They had staff members knocking door to door. They were helpful in making sure that residents got outside services as well.” Read More

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