Friday, June 29, 2007

Friday News 'N Notes

- The Peterson Companies have issued a statement which says that photography is now permitted in Downtown Silver Spring. The statement did note, however, that this can be rescinded at their discretion. (Thank God, because honestly I was getting tired of hearing about this issue.)

- After an extended absence, Gifford's Ice Cream will be returning to Silver Spring with a retail location (eventually), according to company co-owner Neil Lieberman. No word on where or when. In the meantime, you can purchase a throwback Gifford's Silver Spring t-shirt at their existing retail locations if you are so inclined.

- Silver Spring is one of the "best neighborhoods to buy in right now".

- Better start stockpiling spare change in your car, as starting next week the new Silver Spring parking rules go into effect. (More like Bethesda every day...)

Here are the new hours:

On-street meters - 9AM-10PM, Monday to Saturday
Parking lots - 7AM-10PM Monday to Saturday
Garages - 7AM-10PM Monday to Friday

The big "but" here is that the Wayne and Ellsworth garages are exempt from these changes due to a deal with the DTSS developer. Those lots will remain free after 6PM Mon-Thurs and 5PM on Fridays. Businesses outside the DTSS area have beef with this, believing that they will lose business to the restaurants in areas near the free garages. Are people really that cheap that they can't ante up $1 to park near a restaurant? Though I was at Highland Origin Coffee last Saturday and mine was the only car whose meter wasn't flashing, so maybe they are...

- If you're craving a Rooty Tooty Fresh 'N Fruity at 3 AM, you're in luck, as the IHOP on Tech Rd. is now open.

- The CIA's recently-declassified "Family Jewels" describe some clandestine ops that occurred in our own backyard:


wayan said...

Sorry that you're getting tired of hearing about Ellsworth Drive, but the issue is still unresolved.

If you've read the Baltimore Sun article, then you know that the Downtown Silver Spring developers have altered their policy to allow limited photographer access to Ellsworth Drive. That's great, but not what we're asking for.

Free Our Streets is asking for PFA Silver Spring LC to welcome photography, videography, and other filming on Ellsworth Drive, consistent with First Amendment rights as they would apply on any other public street.

The Downtown Silver Spring development includes $187 million in county and state funds and the once completely public property Ellsworth Drive, public investment that should come with public rights.

And so the Downtown Silver Spring Photo Walk is still on. A declaration of photographic freedom on July 4th.

chippy said...

For Immediate Release:


I am a photographer. On June 12 of this year, two representatives from the Peterson Companies, managers of the trademarked Downtown Silver Spring, asked me not to take pictures on Ellsworth Drive. At that time, the representatives misrepresented the facts regarding ownership of Ellsworth Drive, and made deliberately misleading statements over the questions that I raised regarding my First Amendment rights in a seemingly public place.

Immediately following this incident, I wrote a letter to the County Executive and to each of the members of the county council. I posted this letter on the popular photography site, Flickr.

My letter raised the question as to where the public’s civil rights end and the corporation’s privacy rights begin when there is a publicly funded/privately partnered development, in which public monies and land are developed, and then turned over to private corporations. These rights, I reasoned, not only included photography, but on a much more important note, the freedom to petition, campaign, assemble and protest, rights guaranteed by our Constitution. I asked the County Executive and members of the county council to begin a dialog about this important issue with the Peterson Companies.

In the last few weeks my letter, picked up off the Flickr site, has enjoyed wide circulation on the internet. Additionally, every major newspaper in this area reported on the issue and the questions I raised. My story was carried on national TV and syndicated public radio. Washington Post columnist Marc Fisher took a stance in his column last Thursday, which continued in his on-line chat room that afternoon. Local Listservs in the area are abuzz. Members of several prominent Blogs and newly formed photo rights groups in the area came together to organize a photo outing and protest in downtown Silver Spring this coming Independence Day to highlight the true issue here.

While council member Marc Erlich has spoken about this in the press, and I have heard from staff members and insiders that this has been hot topic in the county offices in Rockville the last two weeks, many council members and the county executive have yet to weigh in on the issue.

I am growing concerned that our elected representatives have not yet taken a decisive stance over the growing concern that in downtown Silver Spring, our civil rights may be in jeopardy.

This morning the Peterson Companies, managers and developers of the trademarked “Downtown Silver Spring,” issued a statement. They will allow photography and video taping on Ellsworth Avenue. They make provision, however, that the arrangement can be rescinded. The new policy makes no statement regarding the important issues that I have raised.

In my opinion, the Peterson Companies is missing the point. Not one of the media outlets covered this story out of a concern for the photo enthusiast. This issue has exploded in the minds and the hearts of the people hearing my story, because they fear that civil liberties are being trammeled in public/private partnerships.

With many more of these public/private partnerships now under consideration not only here in Montgomery County but also in nearby College Park and around the country these are questions that deserve to be addressed by not only by our citizens but by our public officials too.

Please join us at noon on the fourth of July. We will gather at the green turf to let our county officials know that the people of Silver Spring will not have their rights under minded and restricted in our town.

b said...

I say damn the man. I pull my camera everytime I see a rent-a cop with a ranger Smith hat. I realize that the 1st amendment doesn't say "freedom of photography". And, you can't hire functionally literate people for minimum wage in todays job market. But no one's perfect. And, yes Peterson Companies, I type with 1 finger, but it's my middle finger.

silver spring penguin said...

Re: Guifford's ice cream

It may be coming to the old firehouse on Georgia Avenue.

Last weekend, I spoke with Jeremy Gruber, co-owner of the future Hook and Ladder Brewhouse. He is working with architects to place a Guifford's walk-up window along the building's Silver Spring Avenue face.

However, that's not carved in granite -- or red brick, for that matter.

silver spring penguin said...

Oops, pardon my misspelling of "Gifford". It takes a while for my medication to kick in.

Re: clandestine spy games in SS, did the "family jewels" document say which building was broken into or what was found?

When I hear "vault with a safe", I think Pyramid Atlantic's second-floor gallery.

Anonymous said...

Photos on the 4th: Showdown in Downtown Silver Spring
Chip Py's run-in with the picture police of downtown Silver Spring has morphed into a good old American fight for the right to express oneself.

Py, a Silver Spring resident, discovered earlier this month that what looks and feels like any old public downtown is in reality a private, if roofless, shopping mall where private security guards can and will stop you from taking pictures just because the developer who controls the place feels like exercising its control jones. Now, amateur photographers from all around the region have decided that they too can flex their muscles, and they plan to gather on Ellsworth Drive on the Fourth of July to demonstrate their right to take photographs in a public setting. The Free Our Streets movement is quickly gathering steam, and that's caused something of a reaction from the powers that be.

The Peterson Companies, the developer that took advantage of $100 million in generous taxpayer support to get their lovely downtown retail strip going, is apparently running scared, and has offered what it terms a compromise. But it's an empty offer. Peterson will put up a "Welcome Photographers" banner, but the reality is that the company is in no way conceding that the street it controls is open to the public in any meaningful way. Here's the company's statement:

"We welcome photography, videography and other filming at our Center. We permit all of these activities, as long as our patrons and tenants are neither harassed nor photographed or filmed over their objection. Also, any activity which would interfere with pedestrian or vehicular movement requires advance management approval. We continue to encourage patrons to report inappropriate behavior to police and security personnel. We reserve the right to modify this and other policies."
"I think we went an extra mile in giving the photographers what they asked for, but we're always open to discussion," I.J. Hudson, an attorney for the developer, told the Baltimore Sun. He described the street as a "shopping mall without a roof," going on to say that "This is private property, and the way we look at it, we have the right to control private property."

Of course, the property is very much public, but Montgomery County ceded control of the property to the developer, and the county wants the developer to be in charge of maintenance and regulation of the downtown. That's where this gets tricky.

In a splendid review of the law's failed attempts to grapple with public access to semi-public spaces, Washington lawyer Jason Levine, in an article in the University of Memphis Law Review (not online, unfortunately), notes that the very definition of public space is muddled. Are we talking about space that is owned by the public, space that is open to the public, or is public space any space between private spaces?

It matters, because the law is stuck in a very old place where there was just private and public, while reality has turned many places that were once municipal into places that are now commercial, creating real conflicts between developers and the people. As Levine writes, "Our town squares have become shopping malls. Our open neighborhoods have become gated communities. Our public basketball courts have become private health clubs."

The whole trend is a recipe for conflict. I've written about suburban residents who were told they could not put up a sign for a political candidate on their own lawn, because the developer's rules forbade it. And I've written about attempts by shopping center owners to prevent political or religious speech on their property. The Silver Spring case is an especially vexing one because the downtown appears to any outsider to be a purely public place.

"If all public space is privately owned, where will the marketplace of ideas exist?" Levine asks. He argues that it's time for the law to recognize this shift in how we live and clear the way for freedom of expression to reign supreme even in places that the law views, all too narrowly, as private.

"Society is at risk of losing all space in which to conduct face-to-face public discourse if no toll is exacted on private property owners for the unfettered access they now have to hawk their goods to the populace," Levine writes in a passage that applies directly to the Silver Spring case.

"Streets are as old as civilization," Levine notes, "and more than any other human artifact have come to symbolize public life, with all its human contact, conflict and tolerance." What makes downtown Silver Spring any different from Times Square or M Street in Georgetown as far as its function as a gathering space?

The courts are starting to see the light on this. In Las Vegas in 2003, a federal appeals court struck down a law that severely restricted First Amendment rights at a publicly owned, privately operated pedestrian mall called the "Fremont Street Experience." That place, remarkably similar to downtown Silver Spring, was designed to renew downtown Vegas, but despite the city's attempt to privatize that space, the court ruled that the law must provide the people who visit there with the same kind of rights and access that a purely public space would afford the people.

That's what has to happen in Silver Spring. The gathering on the Fourth is just the first step in that direction.

By Marc Fisher | June 30, 2007; 11:18 AM ET

Anonymous said...

It's very sad about the parking lots. It especially puts a crimp in the plans of people who want to travel over the weekend and park in the public lot by the SS Greyhound station. You just can't do it anymore.

Anonymous said...

It isn't necessary to cut and paste an entire article on this and other blogs. Why not just post a link?

Sligo said...


It didn't provide any details as to where that safe was located...