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.
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!”