Year 2010 in Pictures – College Park Style

Today is the last day of 2010, and I figured your busy schedule may have prevented many of you from keeping in touch with your neighborhood matters. Here is a summarised version of the major events that took place in our part of the city. Please let me know if I’ve missed something that you think important.

  January 27, 2010
UMD Buys Washington Post College Park Plant
The University announced its plan to purchase 18.5 acres facility, located at 5245 Greenbelt Road.  UMD plans to relocate services such as a bus depot it currently houses on the east side of campus, the site of a planned redevelopment project that includes housing for graduate students, retail space and a hotel
   February 10, 2010
Snowmageddon Hits Neighborhood Streets

Record amount of snow fall caused havoc in City streets. For upto 3 days, many streets did not get cleared up. Though the public works was not prepared for such a massive snow fall, at the end they did a good job. Trash pick up got delayed for days. NCPCA meeting was canceled.
March 3, 2010
UMD Students Riot on Rt. 1 after Terrapin-Duke Game 

The UMD students rioted on Route 1 after the Terrapin’s win against Duke. The students said the police went too far. The police did not agree first and justified its arrest of 28 students but later found police officers guilty of using excessive force.
March 4, 2010
WSSC Announced the ‘Messy’ Water Replacement Plan 
WSSC announced its plans to replace approximately 4 miles of water main in north College Park which began early spring. Many residents complained about the contractors leaving trash, being unresponsive and blocking driveways unnecessarily.
May 14, 2010
NCP “Headshop” Causes Controversies
Tobacco shop Bamboo Eater opens its door in Hollywood Square Shopping Center and stirred a wave of controversies among the residents. They said the store sells drug paraphernalia products, a charge the store owner denied at a later NCPCA meeting. 
May 24, 2010
Experience and Enjoy College Park Tour Debuts
A group of residents started up an Explore and Enjoy College Park Tour.  The purpose was to get together at a city restaurant every month to promote shopping and eating locally, as well as to bring residents from across the city together to build a sense of community and talk about local issues in a relaxed setting. Several key figures in local politics attended the tour.
May 30, 2010
Metro Sexual Assault Shocked City Residents

A 15year old girl was sexually assaulted on the portion of the metro access between the Greenbelt Metro station and College Park.  The news of the attack shocked the community and brought neighbors together to start a petition to install security cameras at the entrance. Several months later, PGPD arrested the suspect.
June 19, 2010
US-1 Sector Plan amendment Approved
County Council approved the US1 Sector Plan and Sectional Map Amendment. There are 84 amendments in total, most of the 26 amendments that the City requested for are in the final amendment list. Most notably includes asking to exclude North College Park from Form-based zoning regulations and to retain Hollywood commercial district to its current designation of Commercial Shopping Center zone..
June 19, 2010
Storm Kills CP Resident, Causes a Massive Power Blackout A powerful storm in the area kills CP resident Michelle Humanick, as she was driving on Rhode Island Avenue, near Odessa Road. Michelle was active in the Neighborhood Watch in College Park Estates and Yarrow, and was married to Clay Gump, who has long been active in the City. The storm also caused a massive power blackout in the area, cutting off power from roughly 53,000 people in our county. 
August 27, 2010
Split Council Okays Gateway Park
A split City council voted to authorize the city staff to pursue a grant to fund design and building of the Hollywood Gateway Park at the intersection of Edgewood road and Rt. 1. The idea was to demolish the existing house at the intersection and build a theme park there. The plan caused controversies among residents.
September 13, 2010
BestBuy Opens in North College ParkThe famous electronic chain store opened its door in College Park Shopping complex, at the place where the old Linens-n-Things used to operate. The store however planned to put up a big blue wedge sign in front of the store. Residents complained, and the store seemed to caved in.
September 14, 2010
County Residents Vote in ‘Decisive’ Primaries Neighborhoods went through a festive mood in the mid-term election, when the county residents voted to elect candidates for county council. The primary results at the end sent Rushern Baker as the Co. Executive. Mary Lehman became the new county council member for district 1, replacing term-limited Tom Dernoga, who also lost in the State’s attorney race. 
October 9, 2010
Residents Celebrate First College Park DayAfter months of planning, city residents celebrated it’s first ever College Park Day. Some 1000 residents participated the festive event, which was hosted by 60 community groups, including several from the UMD.
November 12, 2010
Former Co. Exec Jackson ArrestedIn a shocking corruption probe, FBI arrested former county executive Jack Johnson and his wife county councilmember-elect Leslie Johnson. U.S. attorney investigating the case called it a “tip of the iceberg” and part of a broader corruption investigation in Prince George’s county.
November 15, 2010
Speed Cameras Start Giving TicketsCity’s first first speed cameras started giving tickets in 3 locations – Metzerott Road, Paint Branch Parkway and Rhode Island Avenue. A new camera was later installed on Route 1. In May, City approved to award the speed camera contract to a Lanham-based company called Optotraffic. In March, the city conducted a public hearing on the subject. Cameras caused an interesting discussion on the matter of revenues and public safety.
November 19, 2010
NCP ‘Sex Shop’ Gets Violation, Stirs ControversyNorth College Park’s controversial store “Comfort Zone” received two zoning violations for selling “adult” related products, causing a spirited debate among city residents.
December 15, 2010
Lights Turn Lackawanna into a ‘Runway’Pepco activated street lights as part of the $100K Lackawanna Streetscape project, but made quite a few residents unhappy; they thought the amount of lights is excessive and ruined their street by turning it into a ‘runway’
December 17, 2010
City Ranked Best To Raise Families in MD
The Bloomberg BusinessWeek, reported that College Park is the best place in the entire state of Maryland to raise families in 2011.The rankings put the most weight on school performance and the number of schools, crime statistics, and cost of living. Other factors included job growth, air quality, ethnic diversity, and access to recreational amenities.

County’s Home Values Drop by 35% – Highest in MD

Home Values Drop by 35% ( the Baltimore Sun )

As the State’s Department of Assessments and Taxation released its latest report on the assessment notices, there is some darn bad news for the county’s home owners – their house prices sank 35% in values since the year 2008.

The report can be viewed here.

The percentage drop is the highest among the entire state of Maryland. The other counties that have been hit hard by the drop are Charles, Frederick, Anne Arundel and the Howard county.

The new homeowner may cheer the drop in house price due to a related drop in their tax bills, however others may not see a drop in tax values; some even see a rise in their property  tax bills.

Read more »

Profiles of Service: Part 3 – Pregnancy Aid Center

Pregnancy Aid Center

The yellow frame building looks like just another house in the city – until you take a closer look at the tiny sign at the entrance of the building.

Located at 4809 Greenbelt Road (please see map below), the Pregnancy Aid Center  (PAC) opened its door some 36 years ago.

I stopped by the PAC office last week to drop off  boxes of clothes that we collected as part of our annual winter clothing drive for the infant and children who receive services at the center.

Initially, PAC provided pregnancy testing and options counseling, food, clothes, and referral services. In 1986, with seed money from the Meyer Foundation, PAC’s services were expanded to include a prenatal care clinic. Family planning services were initiated in 1995, and, with a grant from the Freddie Mac Foundation, PAC started an adolescent outreach program.

Read more »

December 2010 Crime Map

Here is the crime map for the month of December 2010, based on the following police reports.

  • Dec 07, 2010 PGPD report (12/01 – 12/06)
  • Dec 15, 2010 PGPD report (12/09 – 12/12)
  • Dec 22, 2010 PGPD report (12/11-12/20)
  • Dec 28, 2010 PGPD report (12/22 – 12/27)
  • Jan 4, 2010 PGPD report (12/28 – 12/31)
  • Dec 3 – Dec 9, 2010, Contract Police report
  • Dec 10 – Dec 16, 2010, Contract Police report
  • Dec 17 – Dec 23, 2010, Contract Police report
  • Dec 24– Dec 30, 2010, Contract Police report

Please click on the red markers to find more about related crime incidents.

Suspect Arersted in Connection with Dec 12 Police Chase

John Arthur Kelly
(PG Police file photo)

Last week, the Prince George’s Police arrested the suspect connected to the December 12 dramatic Police Chase , that rocked the city.

The county police press releasesays the department’s Robbery Unit, in cooperation with Riverdale Park Police, has arrested an individual wanted in connection with the assault of a Police Officer and a string of thefts and robberies in College Park, Maryland.

On December 12, 2010, at approximately 5 p.m., patrol officers responded to the 9000 block of Baltimore Avenue for the report of the theft of a purse.  The detailed suspect description given by the victim was then linked to a strong armed robbery, and commercial robbery, along Baltimore Avenue within a short span of time. Patrol officers canvassed the area and located the suspect near the 8100 block of Baltimore Avenue.  After a brief vehicle pursuit the suspect rammed a patrol officer’s cruiser in an attempt to evade capture.  The suspect later bailed out of his vehicle, fleeing on foot, and making good his escape.

47 year-old, John Arthur Kelly, of no fixed address, was arrested early Friday morning by Riverdale Park patrol officers and has been charged in the Commercial Robbery.  Further charges are pending.

Are Bicyclists Above the Law?

Hey bicyclist, watch out!

I came across this email the other day from one of my neighbors, who was about to be hit by a bicyclist cutting her at the street intersection. 

“Tonight I almost hit a cyclist as I took turns with several other cars at an intersection. As it was my turn to go, the cyclist sped past one of the cars stopped at the stop sign and went through the intersection without even slowing down.” – reads her email after going through this frightening experience. 

Some of us may find this incident rather silly; we often hear the safety of the bicyclists, but do they also need to follow the rules of the road? 

Actually they must, as the Maryland laws say. It says “In Maryland, the bicycle is classified as a vehicle with all of the same requirements and restrictions as a motor vehicle, except (more restricts follow)”. 

I, ride my bike everyday to the Metro on my way to work in the DC and frankly speaking, I’ve seen many of of my fellow bicyclists who don’t follow the rule. 

Others in my neighborhood share the concerns: “There is a woman in our neighborhood who constantly fails to obey bike law and then gets nasty when you beep your horn or mention something.  Beware!  I have often thought of  putting a note on her locker.” – said one of my neighbors.

I think the situation is more like unknowing than knowing negligence.
 
Please remember, to be a bicyclist, you don’t need to be in a mandatory 30 hr instructor-led driving class, nor do you need to spend 36 hours on the road to practice driving with another adult driver; and forget about going through a not-so-easy driving test at the MVA. Anyone can be a bicyclist if s/he wants to be, and thus unfortunately there is little incentive for a bicyclist to learn about these laws.

On top of that, many byclists think that they’re the kings of the road, and above all rules. Others need to protect them, they can care less about the others.

The solution? Awareness of the traffic rule is the key. Many of bicyclists who don’t follow the rules do that simply because they don’t know if any such rules exist (they don’t need to pass a test).  

In the long run, I think it will be a good idea if the City installs signs  similar to this one; it reminds them to yield to the pedestrians.

Free Leaf Raking Service

Leaf raking in an elderly neighbor’s backyard, 2008

The City will be doing its FINAL curbside leaf collection next week, starting Tuesday Dec 27 in our area (east of Rhode Island avenue).

Keeping with its tradition, I’ve gathered a group of volunteers who can help in raking leafs for elderly and disabled neighbors in east Hollywood area.

If you know any such neighbor needing help in raking leafs, please let me know; I’ll hook you up with the volunteers doing this service.

This will be 4th year we’ll be offering this  service.

Profiles of Service : Part 2 – Meals on Wheels

Volunteers serving food (the Gazette)

College Park’s oldest food serving program is celebrating 35 year this year.

Based in the United Methodist Church on Rhode Island Avenue, the program feeds between 60 to 65 people three meals a day, Monday to Friday. The College Park Meals on Wheels is one of the 5000 local similar chapters in the country.

The group has volunteers ranging from teenagers to octogenarians and serves residents in College Park, Berwyn Heights and parts of Beltsville and Greenbelt. It buys its own ingredients; delivers items including fish, fruits, vegetables and sandwiches; and also gives customers non-perishable food packages for weather emergencies, according to this Gazette article.

Ms. Lisa Ealley is the treasurer of the program. She said in an email to me that the need (for the program) is great. “There are so many people that call us from areas that we don’t serve that we have to turn down,” she added.

In years past, the group has relied on federal funding, the cities of College Park and Greenbelt, local politicians, community organizations and private donors to help cover more than $100,000 in annual costs.

In recent years the rough economy forced the group to raise its weekly price for recipients from $20 to $25 in February. The group also had to buy a new $3,500 refrigerator after the old one stopped working this winter.

The program has received grants of as much as $2,500 from the College Park City Council in past years, but Ealley convinced council members to allocate $3,500 in this year’s city budget. Meals on Wheels volunteers are still hoping they’ll be able to ride out the difficult economic times and continue preparing meals and carrying them to residents for years to come.

“Our main criteria [to give someone food] are that they are unable to prepare food for themselves. So some of our recipients are only clients for a few weeks and some have been with us for years!” – said Ms. Ealley.

Ms. Ealley said the group is also in need of people who can help to deliver meals or work in the kitchen. “We have many volunteers (many of our volunteers qualify for our meals!) but they are unable to work every day so there are days that we have a very small set of helping hands.”

She said the group is the only face that some recipients see for weeks on end. “We are their “lifeline” and have had instances where we have been the ones calling for an ambulance. “

If you would like to help out Meals on Wheels either by your donations or spending time, please contact Lisa Ealley at l_ealley@msn.com. “Working with this program is extremely rewarding and we are fortunate that we can continue to provide for our clients” – said Ms. Ealley.

City Extends Neighborhood Watch Application Deadline

In case you didn’t know, the City has extended the deadline for the Neighborhood Watch Chair and Co-Chair application until tomorrow. The original deadline was set on December 13.

So far the City has received 3 applications for the City level positions, Council member Denise Mitchel wrote to me in an email.

In addition to the Citywide leadership positions, the City is also looking for volunteers to lead the program in the neighborhood level (NW coordinator) and also in the street level (NW block captains). If you’re one of them, please feel free to give them a hand. You can download the application form from here.

In the meantime, City’s IT department has added a wealth of resources about the neighborhood watch program to its website. Please browse them here, when you get a chance.

Winter Clothing Drive Continues…

Clothes in boxes ready to go

First, thanks a bunch to all of you who have kindly made donations to the 2010 Winter Clothing Drive. So far, we’ve collected some 18-20 boxes of clothes from three locations – NCPCA meeting at Davis Hall, AlHuda school and Pizza Roma store.

Last night, we dropped 7 boxes of infant and children clothes to College Park’s Pregnancy Aid Center (PAC). PAC’s Executive Director Mary Jelacic was very appreciative to your kind donations. Thanks also to PAC volunteer Lloyd, who helped us to take the boxes to their storage facility. Lloyd said “There is a great need for infant and children winter clothes. Many of the kids who receive donations were born right here in the center.”

We’re also in the process of sending your donated items to the designated charities very soon.

In case you did not get a chance to donate in the three locations, you can still do that at the Berwyn Baptist Church from January 2-6; there will be a box placed inside the Sanctuary.

You can also donate directly just by sending an email either to me or Kennis Termini (kennis.termini@yahoo.com). Just let us know when you want us to collect the donations from your place; we’ll NOT share your information with anyone else.

Thanks again for your continued support.

Metro’s Bag Search Tests Riders’ Nerves


After weeks of speculations, Metro Transit Police advised its customers  today that they would start conducting random inspections of carry-on items, as part of what they call “the continuously changing law enforcement programs designed to keep the system safe”.

College Park Metro station was one of the two stations that Metro decided to start its bag search program.

And there is no exceptions to this rule, as the advisory says: “Customers who encounter a baggage checkpoint at a station entrance may choose not to enter the station if they would prefer not to submit their carry-ons for inspection.”

The Greater Greater Washington reports a long list of reasons why these searches are bad and unncessary. “People have been objecting to these random bag checks on a variety of grounds. The ACLU says that they infringe on civil liberties. Dr. Gridlock disputed the argument that they are a “necessary evil,” writing that “To be a necessary evil, a thing must be both necessary and evil,” and that this policy is only the latter, not the former. Even Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton thinks they’re ineffective.” – reported today in its blog that drew a slew of comments from its readers.

TBD reports the screenings will be completely random and they’ll be done inside stations before passengers have swiped their farecards. Riders who have carry-on items may be asked to come over to a table where transit officers and perhaps agents with the federal Transportation Security Administration are stationed.  At that point, a cloth-like swab will be run over the bag and placed into the ionization machine that detects explosives, and an explosives dog may also inspect the bag.

Want a Facelift of Your House? Help is on the Way!

Pattern book open house

Being an old and historical town, our city boasts of houses that are mostly built at least 50 years or so ago. If you own one of them, you may also want to give its old look a new one by either renovating it or by adding a nice extension to the existing structure.

The City is in the process of developing a pattern book that will serve as a guide for people just like you, who are either adding on to existing homes, or doing landscaping on their properties, or even building new homes.

The goal of the pattern book project is to provide city residents features on their property that fit into the neighborhood. 

Eventually, the pattern book will be available online to homeowners, developer and architects, and is intended to serve as a resource to help make it easier for homeowners to create attractive features on their homes and in their yards.

Now here is an event that you may not want to miss out! There will be a public open house with the contractor developing the pattern book on January 10, 2001, at 7 pm in the Council Chambers in City Hall.  Please mark you calendar.

Profiles of Service – Part 1: College Park Community Food Bank

College Park Food Bank (Washington Post)

I’ve been thinking to start a series of posts featuring social services that a number of our community groups provide. At a time when many in community are going through economic hardships, I think it’s worth focusing on them.

Today, I’ll start the series with the College Park Community Food Bank, which runs off the Church of the Nazarene on Rhode Island Avenue.

The food bank started its operation since October 2008, after it received a few calls from needy families. That inspired a few members of the Church to start a small food distribution for 30 families. The program has now grown to become the Food Bank, a full-scale distribution that monthly serves 200-300 people.

Currently, the food bank does Saturday morning distributions once a month– usually on the 3rd Saturday of the month. The date of the next distribution is always on their homepage. They also do their best to get the word out in the local community by distributing flyers each month, getting the info in school newsletters, and reminding previous recipients.

There is no charge for the food they distribute. Their website says they are supported by donations and funds raised specifically for the food bank by a team of volunteers. One just needs to show up at one of our distributions– the 3rd Saturday of each month at 10am; there is no need to bring any paperwork or qualifying information.

They food bank gives out boxes of food that are a mix of non-perishables (soup, vegetables, beans, rice, pasta etc.), fresh bread and bagels, and fresh produce. Their specific selection of food varies every month based on availability & donations. They give out what they have until they run out so it’s best to show up at 10am. Folks can receive food at the next event by filling out this form

The food bank says it needs a lot of volunteering help. If you can , please do so by visiting this page.

[Source, the Washington Poat, the Gazette]

Explore College Park at Hanami, Tomorrow

Hanami Japanese Restaurant

This month’s “Experience and Enjoy College Park Tour” event will take place tomorrow Monday , December 20th at the Hanami Japanese Restaurant (8145 Baltimore Ave) at 7:00pm. 

Please mark your calender.

The guest speaker that night will be the MD District 21 Delegate Joseline Melnyk!

I’ve been to a few past EECP tours in the past and I found that these meet-up events have been a great way to connect and know your fellow residents and community leaders.

I highly encourage you to come out to this event.

City Changes Parking Rules During Snow Season

Snow on Edgewood Road, February 2010

As the residents received the first round of snow last week, the City also issued its first advisory in this snow season.

But there is a major change in the advisory.

Unlike previous years, when residents had to park on the even-numbered side of the street on even-numbered calendar days; and park on the odd-numbered side of the street on odd-numbered calendar days, the new rule asks residents park their cars on the EVEN side of the street regardless of the calendar days.

Residents can however park on the EVEN side of the street if off-street parking is not available.

Also, if your address is odd-numbered, and the area across from your house is undeveloped, park on the odd side of the street. This mainly applies to residents living along Rhode Island Avenue, Narragansett Parkway, and a few other areas.

There is a penalty to pay if residents don’t follow the rule, the Public Works warned. “Vehicles parked more than 12” away from the curb may be ticketed or towed as this impedes snow removal equipment. Park as close to the curb as possible.” – the advisory says.

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