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I wrote to our Ward 3 councilmember, Mary Cheh’s office (specifically her legislative and committee director, Michael Porcello) about a dangerous intersection in the Forest Hills neighborhood. I received a reply and if this issue impacts you as well I recommend expressing support and contacting her office here:

My email to get the issue addressed:



I spoke with Councilmember Cheh at a meeting in Van Ness today about several issues affecting our neighborhood and she mentioned to contact you about one related to transportation.

I am a Ward 3 constituent who cares deeply about making our community safer. As Councilmember Cheh’s legislative and committee director and due to your duties for the Committee on Transportation and the Environment, I hope you could help us with this one issue.

Me and many other constituents use the Soapstone Valley Trail that goes off of Albemarle Street near Connecticut Avenue into Rock Creek Park. Unfortunately, Broad Branch Road NW cuts right through that route. Compared to other intersections into the park, this one has poor visibility for both pedestrians and motorists, no signage alerting motorists of pedestrians or even a shoulder let alone a crosswalk for pedestrians to navigate their way into the park. I have observed several instances where even when motorists see a pedestrian they speed up their vehicles to overtake them.

Compared to other problems that need to be solved this one has a much clearer solution. I suggest either pedestrian signage, a painted shoulder/sidewalk or even a walkway into the park. When I visited Princeton, New Jersey I saw they have modern motion activated pedestrian signage (A Rectangular Rapid-Flashing Beacon (RRFB)) that alerts drivers when pedestrians are crossing. The signage in Princeton is located in a high visibility slow traffic street. Surely we can have this installed on a high-speed road that cuts the trail from the park. Once we enter the summer months, this stretch of trail will be heavily trafficked. It would do well for us to preemptively resolve this issue now when less people use the trail.


P.S. A map of the relevant location marked with an “x” is attached.


Michael’s Reply:


Hi Philip,

Thanks for bringing this issue to the Committee’s attention. Let me speak with DDOT about this. As you may know, park land in that area is under the control of the National Park Service, not DDOT, and it is not clear to me who controls this stretch (oddly, the map suggests that the land on the east side of the road is NPS property, the west the District’s, which is a bit unusual). Not that this is dispositive on our ability to reach a solution here, but a necessary first step to understand who would have to act.




My reply:



I appreciate you finding who/what is necessary to making this a reality. Can you please keep me up to date on your findings and progress? I’m curious what I can do as a citizen to move things forward. With the Mayor’s Vision Zero initiative and the solution’s relatively low cost, I would think political support for this would be unanimous.




His recent reply:


Will do, Philip. I’m working with DDOT now to identify exact ownership over the intersection so we can plan next steps.



I will keep everyone up-to-date on our progress.

2022/01/21 Update:

2021 in Review

What began as a year of optimism for the upcoming reduction in the pandemic’s influence has undoubtedly turned out to be a mixed one. My family and I are still hunkered down in DC working remotely while the rest of the country is sending its white-collar workers back in fits and starts. I’ve been doing a ton of reading in lieu of commuting and hope to share my thoughts on what I’ve read soon. During the dip in COVID cases, we took our first flight since early 2020 in June to Denver to meet up with friends for a roadtrip to explore the West. We also got to see my extended family (one member started their own small business this year) for Thanksgiving, whom I hadn’t seen for nearly two years up to that point. I celebrated my second holiday season in DC, but this time with another homebound couple.

Professionally, I finally got tenure and look forward to returning to campus this year. Teaching remotely has been tricky since I don’t get to interact with anyone after class (I train government, non-profit, and private sector employees so they’re almost always on the clock and needed immediately after course completion), but I hope this issue resolves itself once people return to residing at NCTC during their courses.

LKYSPP 2021 Reunion
LKY is Back in Session
By the Cape
Summer Reunion
The Crew at Dan’s
Historical site
One of those pivotal moments in American environmental history. My friends, Nick Fannin, Chris Kelly, and Lew Gordon were excited about the postcards from the site.
Almost a decade of friendship.
Reunion with my friend, the artist Pedro Urena.
At the end of the journey.
The Road Trip Ends
Well worth the wait.
The Family

Sadly, E.O. Wilson and Tom Lovejoy, both giants in the field of conservation, passed away at the end of 2021. You could never outrun their legacy when studying or working in conservation, nor did you want to.

Luria and Erik’s Wedding

The Vows
The Gardens

Great anecdote shared with me by the bride and groom:

For their wedding favors, they wanted to give away local Brooklyn candy and found a wonderful candy shop that will remain undisclosed for reasons soon to follow. The candy maker, a self-stylized modern-day Willy Wonka, was initially unsure he could take their wedding order since the largest one he had ever done prior was for about 15 people. He expressed reservations because he wanted to, “save his stock for many other customers to experience.” When their parents offered to pay more he refused saying he wasn’t doing it for the money, but for the craft. Fortunately, the bride and groom are some of the kindest people and the candy man relented. Needless to say, this artisanal candy maker does not want to be discovered by large orders.

National Mall Memorial

18 months and counting…

Vipassana Preparation

It’s been about three years since I’ve been doing any Vipassana-related activities. Although I’ve relocated to DC, I still consider NY in many respects to be where I call home. I still have property here, my family still remains here, my grandfather is buried here. When I saw that the local NY Vipassana Association (NYVA) needed volunteers to assist when I was in town, I enthusiastically signed up. I have done two other 10-day silent meditation retreats before, but it wasn’t until last weekend that I realized how much effort goes into setting up one of these courses. We started Saturday morning and did not finish until the next day. Bear in mind this was with several dozen volunteers. One of the NYVA coordinators, Janice, helped communicate between the prep teams and servers (volunteers during the 10-day course) well. I got to know several of the volunteers including Eric, who runs his own furniture business, Don, a retiree who lives and breathes Indian culture, and Liqian, a travel vlogger.

It was a shame it was overcast Saturday evening since you never get this kind of darkness and therefore visible stars where I Iive.

It's a lot of work.

Converting the space into a dhamma hall

Zabuton placement

Ready for meditation

My cabin for the night

Pitch black moments later


As the World Convulsed, Life Went On

What a wild year 2020 has been. I made yet another move, another career change, all in the backdrop of a pandemic. I made my last trip overseas to Vietnam with a stop-over in Singapore during the Tet holiday, not knowing that a month later all movement would grind to a halt. I was fortunate enough to ride out the lockdown with a living that allowed me to work remotely, while many in the world are still eking out survival in purgatory. I am fortunate that my family are all well, including my relatives in Shanghai, who are now conversely concerned with my welfare amid COVID-19 developments in the United States. If there is one thing this pandemic has taught me, it is that nothing stays.

The Danes and our warm homestay hostess. If you find yourself in Saigon, you can do no better than staying at La vie de Hannah.


Sweet nostalgia going back to Singapore and meeting with LKY buddies. Shout out to Will, Chorks, Jean, Yee Wee, and Azira. I still miss you guys.


Socially distanced at Halfmoon Mountain.
Credit: Albert Hans Cramer


Stella at Soapstone Valley Trail. The highlight of my year, without qualification.


November 7, 2020


Descending the Devil’s Nose with Brandon and Albert.
Credit: Albert Hans Cramer


DC buds now scattered near and far: Zenia, Megha, Lisa, Erin, Mona, and Neha.
Credit: Zenia Montero Chang

Tidal Basin

                                Dogmeat the dog from Fallout 3

2019 in Review

It’s been over a year now since I’ve moved to the District and I can say that this has been another year of personal growth. This may have been the most pivotal year of my life in many respects.

Transitioning from having lived abroad, including silly things like getting used to three-ring instead of two-ring binders and not using the metric system, made my move to a new place this time last year even more jarring. I’ve been more or less okay with three-ring binders now.

I started a habit of daily journaling which has helped me put into context emotions and events that slowly blur together if you’re not conscientious of them.

I started new work at Defenders of Wildlife and I’ll see what the future holds here. Even though I want to make more impact in my job (who wouldn’t?), I feel confident that I’m finally on the right course after a long time in the career building wilderness.


Baby Yoda joining us backpacking in Shenandoah.

Haagen-Dazs ice cream cake is the best birthday cake.

The Irving Street Vets. Still need those, “I survived 1308 North Irving St.” T-shirts

Me and the Gaudios at the Baltimore Light City.

Mt. Moosilauke

Credit: Albert Cramer

Franklin’s Bumble Bee

I wrote a piece with my co-author, Rich Hatfield of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, to support placing one of the rarest bumble bees in the world on the endangered species list. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the agency in charge, is asking for comments from the public until October 15th. Rich and I have made it convenient at the bottom of the piece for you to voice your opinion on protecting a species that needs additional support for rediscovery and recovery.

                   One of the last Franklin’s bumble bees sighted. (Credit: USFS)