My View – Roof terraces and Safe Haven


In reference to Mike Salmons recent article in which he stated that Rooftop decks are hip, providing open space for some, ever since I read that thousands of dollars are being earmarked for a terrace on top of the Historic Fire Station at 115 Patrick St. as part of the remodeling for a Safe Haven for mentally challenged patrons, I have been wondering why almost $10,000 probably more, as the proposed price is never the price paid in the end per person are going to be spent on such a project.

Even after reading Those with disabilities have the God-given right to live just like everyone else with everyone else…. That is what every religion says. That is what the law says. That is what this countrys Declaration of Independence says. I really did not get it. 

Now I read, Rooftop decks are hip, providing open space for some. Now I really do understand. Those residents are entitled to every passing trend that happens to be the flavor of the day, roof top terraces included. No matter what the cost to Alexandrians. Because that is their God-given right?

Roof decks became chic about five years ago. And chic, of course, is what mentally challenged people are entitled to and desperately need, right?

Roof decks can be built on existing structures, but the City of Alexandria discourages them in the historic district, according to Dana Hunting at the Planning and Zoning office. 

In some cases, they are allowed in the historic district as long as they do not interfere with the historic roof line of a building, as stated in the citys design guidelines.  Furthermore, material used on a roof deck needs to be carefully chosen so it does not detract from the historic architecture.

I cannot help but wonder how a rooftop deck can be built on top of that firehouse so that it does not interfere with the historic roof line while, at the same time, prevent residents from jumping off the roof. 

But, of course, Council has taken all these guidelines into careful consideration before their vote, right?

Could City Council please tell us how many hours, how many days, how many evenings a year those mentally challenged people will be able to use such a deck? 

Remember, they will not be forced to take their medication. So they probably will not be prevented to go up there either when it is too hot. And if they do take their medication, how does the combination of medication, sun and foul air work together?

A resident of Chatham Square said, During a storm I always worry about the drainage from the deck. That is always something I think about when it starts raining real hard and I am lying in bed. There have been no leaks so far.

Probably $10,000 per resident for a rooftop terrace $100,000-plus in all will be spent by the time that Historic Fire House will turn into a Safe Haven. 

With global warming and all, what I cannot tell you but what you might like to figure out for yourself is how many hours, how many days, or nights you think those residents will spend on a roof terrace inhaling the foul air of Route 1, assuming of course that they or those following them in that so-called Safe Haven will not be afraid of height, will not feel isolated up there and will not have the urge to jump off.

And mull over Vice Chairman John Komoroskes comment: The measure of a society is how it treats those worse off in that society. I dont see that there will be anything but improvement by Safe Haven.

And mine: It is cruel to put mentally challenged people in a Historic Fire House with floor to ceiling windows, with the only outdoor space a roof terrace overlooking a gridlocked polluted noisy street, a terrace which cannot by any stretch of the imagination be described as living with everyone else.

Greta Swinnen Crais lives in Old Town.