D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray sharply criticized Ward 8 Councilman Marion Barry for delaying a major project on the campus of St. Elizabeths East Campus and said the lawmaker's actions are stalling economic development in Southeast Washington.
"Your action has significant negative implications on the project schedule, undermining the pursuit of our mutually shared goals for the St. Elizabeths project," Gray wrote in an Aug. 10 letter to Barry obtained by The Washington Examiner.
Barry moved on July 20 to block a $4.5 million contract to stabilize four historic buildings at St. Elizabeths, a project Gray said needed to move forward quickly so other projects could also begin.
"It was our intention to have the stabilization work completed prior to the start of the next project," Gray wrote. "Your proposed disapproval resolution delays the current contract and will likely delay the start of construction [on other components]."
In an interview with The Examiner, Barry said he filed the disapproval resolution because he felt the Gray administration had done an inadequate job of building guarantees of jobs for D.C. residents into the contract.
"I'm determined to get as many jobs as we possibly can," said Barry, who said he plans to lift his hold soon because he has received a commitment from the developer to allocate 65 percent of the project's jobs to D.C. residents and companies. "My goal is to keep as much business in the District as I can."
Gray spokesman Pedro Ribeiro disagreed with Barry's account.
"While there are no such commitments, Mayor Gray is pleased that the disapproval resolution will be removed and that the council member understood the importance of this project to the people of the Ward 8 community and the harm his disapproval resolution caused," Ribeiro said.
Barry also lashed out at Gray for expressing his concerns through a letter.
"You don't get anything done writing letters," the former mayor said. "I've been trying to meet with the mayor for four weeks, and I haven't gotten a meeting."
The District is in the midst of a sweeping redevelopment of the 183-acre site, located near the Congress Heights Metro station, in a bid to promote retail, residential and business activities.