Letter to the Editor: Media spotlight on vacant embassies has led to progress

Pakistan's former embassy sits at 22nd and R streets NW. (Brian Kapur/The Current/June 2017)

The Current is to be commended for shining a bright light on the issue of abandoned foreign mission property in D.C.  [“Neighbors battle over vacant foreign missions,” Aug. 2; and “Vacant embassies draw attention from Norton,” Sept. 6]. If not for the earlier piece, D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton might not have requested a meeting with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson — who happens to be a Kalorama neighbor — to discuss these issues.

The Current’s reporter, Grace Bird, has been especially thorough in her research, looking through D.C. tax and real estate records to find the truth — and revealing interesting new facts.

As the advisory neighborhood commission with the most foreign missions within its borders, we have many residential blocks that over the years have suffered neglected, blighted foreign mission properties. The District is unable to enforce health and safety standards, and the Metropolitan Police Department is unable to enter these empty properties and investigate problems that threaten the security of residential neighbors.

I’ve never noticed similar blight in the embassy areas of Paris and London — I wonder what they are doing that we are not. We do know this: These properties degrade our city, and the countries that own them show no respect for our city. Yet if any of them caught on fire, it would be our brave firefighters who would protect them.

So thank you Current for bringing this matter into the sunshine. It is not an easy problem to solve, but we need to at least start the conversation.

Ellen Goldstein, Commissioner, ANC 2D02