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Folk Legend Pete Seeger Joins Alexandria Waterfront Debate

Vice Mayor Allison Silberberg reaches out to 93-year-old musician, receives letter opposing "modernized" waterfront.

Alexandria Vice Mayor Allison Silberberg is making a push for “reasonable compromise” on the city’s waterfront plan and has brought in the assistance of folk music legend Pete Seeger.

Silberberg's push follows the introduction of a new zoning text amendment by city officials earlier this month that, if approved, will allow the city to overcome existing litigation and spur new development along the riverside of the Potomac.

See: City Council Aims to Vote Again on Waterfront Plan

Elected in November, Silberberg is the lone current councilmember to express opposition to the plan and a desire to spend more time on it. Her idea for compromise includes limiting the number of hotels along the waterfront. The current plan calls for two small hotels.   

“The middle ground to me would be one small boutique hotel,” she said Saturday at a public hearing at City Hall.

Opponents of the waterfront plan criticized the new text amendment at the hearing. Old Town resident Bert Ely called it “an incredible disrespect for the rights of property owners throughout the city.” Van Van Fleet, another Old Town resident, criticized council for developing the text amendment in closed session.

“It goes fully against the issue of fairness in deciding issues important to the city of Alexandria,” he said.

If Planning Commission approves the amendment March 5, council will consider it at a March 16 public hearing.

Silberberg announced Saturday her possession of several letters supporting more discussion and consensus building prior to a vote on the plan, including notes from the Old Town Civic Association, The National Trust for Historic Preservation, Preservation Virginia and former mayor and state senator Patsy Ticer.

She also said she received a handwritten postcard from the 93-year-old Seeger addressing Alexandria’s waterfront.

The note, dated Dec. 23, 2012, reads:

Dear Citizens of Alexandria: 

Your historic town will be remembered by everyone who visits this nation's capitol, because, I believe, you will never let your beautiful water front be “modernized.” Yes, you'll keep it beautiful.

old Pete Seeger

Silberberg told Patch on Sunday that she shares a mutual friend with Seeger and has chatted with the musician a few times over the years.

She reached out to Seeger for a blurb about her collection of essays published in 2009 entitled “Visionaries In Our Midst: Ordinary People who are Changing our World.”

The folk singer, who has written and recorded songs for seven decades, granted her request, offering the following assessment: "This book will not just help save America; it will help save the world."

Though it is not rare for people who have been public figures for 70 years to contradict themselves, it should be noted that Seeger once said: "Songs won't save the planet, but neither will books or speeches."

Perhaps a postcard will?

Silberberg said she reached out to Seeger over the holidays about the waterfront, sending him a short note and a copy of an opinion piece she had published in The Washington Post in late 2011 concerning the waterfront.

“He’s such a sweetheart,” Silberberg said of Seeger. “He cares about the environment, history, preservation. … One day it occurred to be maybe this issue would be of interest to Pete. He sent me the postcard. It could have been lost in the mail!”

Read more articles about Alexandria waterfront redevelopment.

Defy Libtards March 02, 2013 at 08:54 PM
I need help picking out some new window treatment, does anybody have the phone number for Cat Stevens? I'd like his opinion before I make any decisions.
NoBS March 02, 2013 at 09:13 PM
Cat Stevens isn't "Cat Stevens" anymore. He's gone by the name Yusuf Islam for many years now. In any event, if I recall correctly, a member of Fleetwood Mac had a restaurant/nightclub here in Alexandria about ten years ago. Maybe he should weigh in, having been a small business owner near the waterfront and all.
Sherry Henderson March 02, 2013 at 10:12 PM
Pete Seeger? Really? Wow, just how much weirder can Alexandria become?
Longtime Resident March 06, 2013 at 11:31 PM
It makes no sense at all that a hotel will "make that area of Old Town a miserable place to be." If that were the case, no hotel would want to be there! As far as I am concerned, Vice Mayor Silberberg is doing what we elected her to do: try to find compromise among (mostly) reasonable people who disagree on an issue they care deeply about. Who cares if Pete Seeger--who in addition to being a folksinger, is a long-time environmental activist, particularly on water issues--wants to comment? Judging from some of these posts, he gave a lot of witty wannabees a chance to strut their stuff, but they haven't added much of value to the discourse. Seeger has done nothing but speak his mind. Welcome to America people. Yes, there is polarization on all sides, but it takes people like Silberberg to keep trying. When our elected representatives stop looking for compromise, we get things like sequestration. I hope she is undeterred by silly stuff like this . . .
Defy Libtards March 07, 2013 at 12:14 AM
If that restaurant/nightclub were called Leather and Lace, I'm sure our male civic leaders would most certainly be looking to "solicit" that business owner for "advice". And perhaps help pay someone's way through "law school". Isn't that right David Englin?

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