Viewpoint: Rebuttal to “Sunrise: No more than 40 percent”

The proposed Sunrise assisted-living center, shown here from Yuma Street, has drawn concern from nearby residents. (rendering courtesy of Sunrise Senior Living)

People can disagree, but it is sad when discussion about an issue degenerates into lying about an individual or organization. Jose Miguel Vivanco’s Viewpoint piece in the Feb. 14 Current includes the demonstrably false and defamatory statement that “Public records show City Gate had to repay D.C. $76,000 for non-performance (Youth Engaged for Success, Inc. and City Gate Inc. v. D.C. Office of State Superintendent of Education, Case No. 2011- OSSE-00003, Office of Administrative Hearings, March 6, 2012).”

All one needs to do is check the reference provided to find that the truth is the polar opposite of Mr. Vivanco’s statement. In this case City Gate had requested and gained standing in litigation involving OSSE and Youth Engaged for Success (YES) because we had not been paid $76,000 as a contractor for invoiced and documented services. How in the world does an effort to collect money get twisted into a fiction that we had to repay funds for “non-performance?” In fact, after OSSE terminated its relationship with YES, City Gate was retained to continue providing as a contractor the same services. Subsequently OSSE has awarded City Gate two 21st Century grants (each for three years, totaling well over a million dollars for the six years) to provide out-of-school time programs for over 100 children at this particular site in Southeast D.C.

Mr. Vivanco and the 10 additional neighbors signing this Viewpoint piece state, “We know little of City Gate. It is located elsewhere” . . .  “using 3920 Alton Place as a mail drop.” The only part of that statement which is true is the “know little.” They live within several hundred feet, and are unaware that City Gate’s administrative offices are located here with multiple staff on site, that 15 years of English-as-a-Second-Language classes have been provided for international neighbors, that City Gate programs are held every summer on site (a six-week Youth Leadership Institute for sixty D.C. teens last summer), and also that City Gate operated a preschool on site for eight years. Although most City Gate participants do live in public or subsidized housing in Wards 7 and 8, City Gate has had an active, positive presence in our neighborhood, and also has been vetted by D.C. Public Schools to provide out-of-school time programs onsite at our schools, including sites in Wards 1, 2, and 4, as well as 7 and 8.

That said, City Gate has nothing to do with any proposed development involving the Wisconsin Avenue Baptist Church site other than illustrating the community orientation of the congregation. Given concerns sometimes voiced about serving community needs, the church wants to be clear that its vision is driven by its spiritual mission and its ministry to the needs of individuals and the community it serves. But Mr. Vivanco and the neighbors use something that never happened to discredit City Gate and as evidence of “Bergfalk’s management failures” which they “cannot be asked to make up for” through the development of the church’s property, even suggesting the motivation for such a project is to “raise funds for City Gate.”   

This tortured logic is just another line of attack on a project these neighbors oppose. Frankly, such comments are offensive and make no sense, in addition to being totally false. There is no intent or effort to raise funds for City Gate, an established nonprofit which has raised its own budget for nearly two decades. What deeply concerns me is how this Viewpoint letter fits a pattern of a consistent flow of inaccurate, incomplete or false information which often is presented in a manner which personally attacks or discredits reputable individuals or institutions. Many of our neighbors share neither the approach nor viewpoint of these writers. We would only ask any neighbor who has concerns or questions to walk across the street or call or email us to check them out before putting something in print. And I encourage The Northwest Current, which does a great job covering neighborhood news, to vet its op-ed pieces to prevent publication of false and defamatory material.

Dr. Lynn Bergfalk is the president of City Gate, Inc. and pastor of Wisconsin Avenue Baptist Church.