Time for a Cleanup in North College Park! (Plus Free Breakfast!!)

Trash by Rhode Island Avenue

Let’s take some time off tomorrow to cleanup north College Park!!

In conjunction with this year’s Gorgeous Prince George’s Day, the City’s Committee for a Better Environment (CBE) will hold a community clean-up. All supplies—and refreshments—will be provided.

Speaking of refreshments, we’ll be providing bagels & creme cheese, coffee, water and a few soda type things for you and your entire family.

The event will start from 8 am and continue until 12 Noon.

We’ll be meeting at the parking lot outside of My Organic Market (MOM), Hollywood Shopping Center, 9801 Rhode Island Avenue, CP, MD 20740
Although you can just show up, if you are ready to commit, we’d like to know. Please email Janis at janiso@erols.com or call 240-888-6972. 

We will be working on the following areas: Edgewood Road (from Route 1 to its end), Rhode Island Avenue (from the CP border to University Blvd), and along Narragansett Run.

Police Chief, Book Exchange to Dominate Tonight’s NCPCA Meeting

Today is the second Thursday of the month and thus the day for NCPCA’s monthly meeting.

Two major attractions of tonight’s meeting are the Q&A sessionwith our new Police Chief Maj. Liberati and a presentation by the proposed Book Exchange property developer Ilya Zusin.

Since we’re in a new session, I’d also like to remind you to renew your membership. Your membership helps support the basic NCPCA operations such as printing and mailing of NCPCA newsletters and organizing various forums and activities. If you’re not a member, please join NCPCA today. The membership fee is only $10 per family per year. You can download the membership form from NCPCA’s website here, fill out and mail that to the address on the form with a $10 check. You can also become a member at our regular meetings such as the one tonight.

NCPCA is also doing a school supply drive for area’s underprivileged school students. Please bring your kind donations to tonight’s meeting. In addition to school supplies, we’ll be accepting hand sanitizers and copy machine paper. 

As usual, the meeting will start at 7:30pm at Davis Hall. Detailed agenda can be found here.

See you all tonight.

North College Park to Discuss Proposed Book Exchange Development Tomorrow

The proposal to turn the Book Exchange site into a 6-story mid-rise apartment building for students and professionals has stirred quite a bit of discussion among City’s southern inhabitants – University students and Old Town residents. Being so close to the campus, UMD, smart growth proponents and students would love to see this proposal go through. On the other hand, some long time residents fear that the proposed development is an invitation to more trouble for them – stuff like “late night parties, noise ” etc. will be very common, they think. While the project appears to be in line with the recently updated zoning for the property, but political opposition could delay the project considerably and ultimately quash it.Does north College Park have anything to do with this property development? Directly the answer may be no, but indirectly, definitely yes. North College Park has a sizable student populations living in its houses. If more and more rental housing is built in the south, students will likely to leave north and concentrate closer to campus. This may or may not have an effect to the northern neighborhoods.

In the meantime, the four council members representing the north part of the city have been divided on the proposal. While District 1′s Chris Nagle supports the proposal, her counterpart in District 1 Patrick Wojahn does not. District 4′s Dennis Michelle is also against the proposal. The other District 4 council member and UMD graduate student Marcus Afzali is publicly undecided but skeptical.

Ilya Zusin, the developer of the proposed development will come to this Month’s North College Park Citizen Association (NCPCA)’s meeting tomorrow (Oct 14). The session will start at 8:10pm; detailed agenda can be found here. NCPCA meets every second Thursday of the month at Davis Hall (9217 – 51st Avenue).

Earlier this month, the members of the Old town civic association overwhelmingly rejected the proposed development. Tomorrow’s discussion has been billed as an informational session to NCPCA’s members. This means that the members will unlikely to take a position on the matter.

My First Blog Annivarsary

Today marks the first anniversary of this blog.

 Exactly a year ago, I started this blog. In the first post, I tried to explain about this new venture – “I thought, I should write a little on the content of the blogs I’ll be posting in the coming days and weeks.”

That’s right, I only thought I could keep this afloat only for a few weeks – who knew it would’ve stepped into its second year?

Thanks to you – my neighbors and especially the support of my family that have kept this going – one post a day, everyday.

At times, things have been a little tough. This blog is all about this little neighborhood – not even about this small college town. This often made getting a daily blog topic a little challenging task me. Fortunately, something was always going on even in this small part of the town – and I could always find neighbors wanting to talk about those topics. It has always been fun to discuss things that they find useful.

But the most challenging part I found was finding time to write. Blogging isn’t my full-time job, I don’t get paid for writing this blog (most bloggers don’t – so no surprise there). Nor do I have an army of reporters who comb through the neighborhood and write stories for me. I’ve a day job, a part time teaching job, both are fairly demanding, not to mention the essential quality time I (must) spend with my family at home. Fortunately, my family is kind enough to lend some of their precious time and on top of that I get about an hour during my Metro commute to work (I always take my laptop with me). That should probably explain the secret of my little tme management about this blog project.

This blog has helped me to stay in touch with you and our neighborhood on a constant basis. I hope to continue that in coming days, weeks, and (yes) may be years!!

Please stay in touch!


College Park Day Helps School Children Explore Their Culture

The colorful poster is full of pictures. On the right side it shows a picture of Grand Canyon, Thanksgiving festival, American flag and Collard Green dish. On the left side it sports a Jamaican flag, mangoes, ackee dish and Dunns river falls of Jamaica. Titled “Jamerica“, the poster tried to show the essence of two cultures a College Park school child treasures most.

I was born in America, but my parents are from Pakistan – so I’ve two cultures” – reads another poster by Sakeenah Dosti, a student from AlHuda school, one of six schools in the city. In another area, Sakeenah draws the flag of his parent’s country and asks to pronounce the names of her favorite foods. “Say it for Yourself” – she challenges her poster’s visitors, who gathered in the large gymnasium at the College Park Day, where the posters were on display.

These were only two of the 70 colorful posters, beautifully done by our young city residents as part of the “This is My Culture,” poster contest. The contest asked College Park’s children to use pencil, crayon, and paint or pictures to show how they see their culture.  “The poster can demonstrate the languages they speak, the food they eat, the clothes they wear, the places they visit, etc.  If the child was born in a foreign country, or has ties to that country, he or she can also feature the culture of that country.” – explains  the event’s website about the rule of the contest.

The contest helped our young citizens  explore dozens of cultures that our city is so proud of. We’re planning to award each of the artist a certificate and a College Park Day souvenir. Each school will get to choose two winners – one in the grade 1-3 categories, and another in the grade 4-6. The winners will get special prizes from the City’s Mayor in a special City Council session.

Thank You College Park!

By any standard, the first College Park Day was a great success. I was told some 1000 residents attended the event. Thanks to everyone – residents, organizers, volunteers and the sponsors for making this a success. Here are a few pictures I managed to upload. Please enjoy!

Today is College Park Day – Top 5 Reasons to Attend

The day that we worked for the past six months has finally arrived. After so much media blitz, yet if you’re not convinced why you should be there, here goes my final attempt – top 5 reasons to attend this momentous event.

Reason 5: See 70 nicely done “This is My Culture” posters by our school children (grades 1 to 6)

Reason 4: Sports and family fun that includes Storytelling by former College Park Mayor Joe Page

Reason 3: Slide shows showing histories of College Park!!

Reason 2: Free food and (soft) drinks!

Reason 1: The only event where you can get to meet 60 community groups, residents and students, old and young at one place in your town.

Directions and parking info here: http://ColelgeParkDay.org

College Park Day – Let’s Celebrate City’s Diversity and Heritage

Tomorrow is College Park Day. For the first time in its history, the residents of College Park will descend upon one place to celebrate the richness of this city that they call as home.

Nearly a year ago, when my fellow North College Park blogger Joe Smith and I started writing about the challenges our city was facing, we had no idea where our blog posts would lead to a year later. The very few readers, who kindly made trips to our blogs, probably ignored those posts  as typical “rants” that they see as so common in our digital blogosphere.

Fast forward, a few months later, after a busy work day, Joe and I found ourselves at our first organizing committee meeting with a small group of City officials. The five of us that attended that meeting had one goal in our minds – let our city residents explore and celebrate the richness of our city’s diversity and heritage.

Since then, dozens of committee meetings have taken place, hundreds of emails have made their ways to committee members’ inboxes, yet we managed to stay focused on our original goal and vision. Tomorrow, we’ll be witnessing the hard work of these committee members coming to fruition. The last six months truly seemed so short.

Are we going to achieve the goals that we started working towards several months ago? For the most part, yes.

On the diversity front, we managed to reach out to each and every community group in the city, including civic associations, faith groups, local businesses, schools, scouting groups – you name them. The list of these groups rapidly started growing, so much so that their numbers made our logistics subcommittee members nervous – they could only have so many!

The support and active participation of UMD’s so many diverse groups were also significant. The sheer experience to witness so many UMD groups working together with the various residents’ groups has simply been astounding. This may be the first time that I’ve ever seen these two distinct yet so close groups come together and work on a city matter for so long and with so much passion.

The City’s effort to promote this community relations is also praiseworthy. Not only the City has made the largest contribution to the event, but also various City officials have spent countless hours to bring the event’s work to the finish line. Along with that, the contributions from various sponsors were also significant. Without them, it’d have been impossible to support so many projects we took as part of the event.

Because of this event, we were also able to energize many of our City’s very young residents. Some 70 students at our 6 schools, many as young as 5 years old, have taken part in an exciting poster contest, called ‘This is My Culture’. The organizing committee has treasured these art works so much so that they have decided to put each one of them on display at the event. This really could not have been possible without the active support of our school principals and teachers; I can already feel a strong sense of excitement emerging from the work that they’ve conducted over the past few weeks. One principal wrote to me: “I have not seen such an organized City event ever before.”

Though the TOCP (Taste of College Park) has now gone into “defunct” status, our organizers will be presenting a number of ethnic foods for our residents to enjoy. What is a great way to experience city’s diversity other than tasting the delicious delicacies that our disperate cultures offer. The most important part is –  you don’t need to spend a single cent to taste them.

Though the diversity is an important strength of our town, we should also be proud of the long and rich history and heritage that our city offers. Known as the cradle of American aviation, our city is also the home of several local and national museums. All of them – The National Museum of Languages, The College Park Aviation Museum and the National Archives will all be there. We’ll also be showing you two documentaries and posters on the rich history of our city.

College Park Day was created for you, and only for you. It was designed to explore the richness of the city that you call home.

Please be there, explore and enjoy!

Patch and Diamondback Feature College Park Day

Thanks to the College Park Patch and the University paper the Diamondback who have joined the list of growing media covering the College Park Day event.

The Patch article traces back the history behind the event, and how the City helped the local residents to make this come true. Thanks to the Patch editor Lauren Evan for getting the word out. Lauren is also part of the organizing committee listserv, and thus has seen first hand how the preparation for the event has evolved over the past several months. Here is the link:

Disparate Cultures Unite for College Park Day

The Diamondback article focuses on the diversity part of the event and says how it will help celebrate the rich diversity of the town that includes the large college population. The article was written by Becca Lurie, who chairs the activity sub committee. Thanks Becca for doing this wonderful job!Here is the link.

Celebrate the city’s diversity

Suspect Arrested for Metro Sexual Assault

Amid the bad news of all recent crime incidents, here comes a good one.

A suspect in the past May 28 sexual assault incident, William De-Jesus ANGEL-MENDOZA was arrested early this week by Metro Transportation Police Department (MTPD). MTPD Detectives kept the information close hold as they continued to seek witnesses to the incident and gather evidence locally and in Boston, MA.

The source, who is a Spanish speaker, and having established a rapport with Officer Sarrichio, contacted Officer Sarrichio and CID to disclose the exact whereabouts of the wanted suspect.
Detective Archer and Officer Sarrichio responded to University Blvd & New Hampshire Ave. to make contact with the source who relayed suspect’s current location.  Suspect was detained while additional units assisted in bringing a witness to their location for a show-up. 
W-1 positively identified S-1, who was arrested and charged with Kidnapping (child under the age of 16) & 1st Degree Sexual Offense (child under the age of 16).  

MENDOZA is from El Salvador and has been described as with a snake tattoo running the length of his left  forearm with the head of the snake on the inside of his left wrist.

Metro Police released the suspect’s picture back in June (please see at the left). Alarmed by the assault incident, local residents and riders organized a petition drive asking Metro to install safety cameras at the Metro entrance that leads to north college park neighborhood.

The Growing List of CP Day Participants – 53, and Counting…

College Park Community Center - Areas 3 - 7 will host Community Groups

We’ve just added the 53rd community group to our growing list of participants in College Park Day event.

Just a month ago, in our organizing committee meeting, we felt a sense of nervousness on the lack of group participation in this event. At that time we barely had a little over 10 groups. “We emailed, left messages, yet to receive response from these groups” – said one organizing committee member with a tone of frustration.

Since then, the number of participants has grown steadily.

So much so that, this morning, we were discussing if we can afford to take any new group, given the limitations of resources and facility space we have in the College Park Community Center parking lot, where we’ll be hosting these groups together. After discussion, we decided to make October 6 (this Wednesday) as the last day to register as a vendor / participant to the event.

I hope we can accommodate each one of the group request we’ll be getting in the next few days, and make them to be part of this great event. Isn’t coming together is the main reason why we all started this event several months ago?

Ask the Police Chief

Major Robert Liberati, the new PG Police Chief will be coming to Oct 14 NCPCA meeting to answer your questions. Mr. Liberati is the Chief of District 1 PG County Police that includes the City of College Park.

It’s been only a few month since Mr. Liberati has taken his office, yet he has made his name known to the City residents. One change I’ve noticed is more frequent Nixle alerts on crime incidents in and around the City. Albeit incomplete, such alert messages are the only source of immediate crime information in our area. Instant reporting of crime incidents in our city is nearly absent on sites like crimereports.com.

Mr. Liberati has shown some promises as a police chief, but can he do even better? You wouldn’t ask that question if the crime had completely died down in our city. Though total crime figures have gone down in the recent month, violent crimes, robberies, and assaults have gone up in the same period of time. What can he do to bring these dangerous crime figures down.

Another question you may want to ask is the reaction of the PG Police in our part of the City compared to that in downtown College Park. I try to follow crime trends in both north and south part of the City and from the surface, it appears that the number and of nature of crime in these two parts of the city isn’t quite different. But here is the issue; every time we have a series of crime happening in downtown, it seems that they get more attention from the Police (and the media off course). Very rarely similar series of incidents happening in the north get comparable attention from the Police. Is this a matter of perception, or is there a real discrepancy in the focus of attention between the south and the north?

These two questions are just the start; I’m sure you have other questions in your mind. Please bring those questions to our next NCPCA meeting. In case you think you cannot come to the meeting, please let me or our President Mark Shroder (email: shroder_keller@yahoo.com) know about them before the meeting. You deserve to know the answers to these questions.

Washington Times Features CP Day

Our (former) NCP blogger Joe Smith wrote a piece in today’s Washington Times featuring College Park Day. Thanks Joe, for doing such a superb job. You’ve made us proud! Here is the link.

Bloggers log off, team up to connect neighbors
By Joseph Smith

Last fall, in a post on my (now defunct) neighborhood blog, I criticized the College Park City Council for its decision to pull the funding for the Taste of College Park.

Like other “Taste of” events across the nation, the TOCP encouraged residents to get off their couches and make the trip downtown, enjoy the fare of local restaurants, peruse the wares of local merchants and enjoy a beer, all within the shadow of our modest city hall.

“We want the people of College Park to come together, don’t we?” I rhetorically asked. “Well, nothing brings folks together like food. So why not hold another TOCP? Or better yet, a cultural festival or similar event that would bring folks from the various communities within College Park together for some food, entertainment, (folk) art, and maybe even some fun.”

As the snarky tone of that excerpt implies, I saw the TOCP as a means to an end. Sure, it was a nice event, but it was also a potential solution to a larger, more significant problem than the reallocation of public funds.

A few weeks before writing that post, I had attended a meeting of my civic association, and, as I sat in the uncomfortable metal chairs, I heard a few attendees make disparaging comments about the immigrant and religious communities that recently had established themselves in the neighborhood. I couldn’t believe my ears.

To improve community relations, I thought, the city should hold an event that encouraged its diverse communities to mix and mingle, and the best way to spread that idea was to ask the readers of my blog to lobby the council and have the TOCP’s funding restored.

Around the same time, Fazlul Kabir, a local activist and member of the city’s Muslim community, was writing on his blog about how “communication gaps between different communities” were among the city’s problems. A possible remedy, he proposed, was “getting ethnic communities more involved in civic activities.”

“Over the past several years, more and more people with diverse backgrounds and ethnicities have moved into our city.” Kabir says. “A community event celebrating the diversity and heritage of our town could help residents get to know each other and improve relations between various groups, such as new and long-time residents, students and permanent residents, and people from different cultures.”

Unbeknownst to us, people were paying attention, and, in March of this year, we each got a call from one of our city council representatives, who asked us to put our proverbial money where our mouths were and attend a meeting about an event like one we were calling for. We jumped at the chance.

The first meeting was small, consisted of only five people — me, Kabir, both of our city council representatives and a city staff member — and was little more than a brainstorming session. By the time it was over, we had agreed upon two things: that an event should take place and that it would be called College Park Day.

Our second meeting was about a month later. This time, there were several more people around the table — more city council members; residents representing neighborhood associations, businesses, churches and organizations; university students; and a staffer from the Maryland National Park and Planning Commission — and we got more accomplished. We picked a date for the event (this Saturday, Oct. 9), identified a location and decided what to have in regard to food, entertainment and exhibitions. The ball officially had started to roll.

That was six months ago, and, as I write this with less than two weeks to go before the big day, I marvel at the incredible amount of energy and effort that the all-volunteer planning committee has put in to make College Park Day a reality. I’m also thankful for the city staff, local officials, public institutions, and private corporations who have so generously donated their funds (about $8,000 so far) and resources. I’m humbled by the way the larger community has encouraged and supported the event.

What amazes me the most, however, is that, through the work of all involved, we already have succeeded at bringing people together who may otherwise not have met, and we’ve shown what can be accomplished when neighbors come together and work toward a common goal.

So, how can you do something similar where you live? I recommend the following, which were vital for me:

1) Get to know your local representatives. In my experience, the people who represent you on your city or town board/council are always interested in talking to motivated, thoughtful residents. Tell them about your concerns for the neighborhood, find out what they’d like to get done in the community and what their challenges are, and (assuming you see eye-to-eye) then let them know you’re available to help change things for the better.

2) Get involved in your community. City/town boards, neighborhood associations, local committees — if these bodies have one thing in common, it’s that they need volunteers to accomplish their missions. By joining them, you can help your city or town cover its bases, learn something about how your locality runs and connect with likeminded folks — people who also want to make things better. If your town is like mine, your city council rep can tell you where the vacancies are. (See No. 1.)

3) Share your ideas. If you have things to say about what’s happening in your neighborhood and like to write, start a blog. They’re free, and you can advertise by word of mouth. However, blogger beware: Having a blog doesn’t give you a license to bitch and moan. You can write passionately, of course, but you have to offer something. If you have a unique perspective, skill set or expertise that’s of use to the community, stay focused on that. It’ll set you apart from the crowd and give readers a reason to keep coming back. If you don’t want to be a blogger, then look for a neighborhood e-mail list or Internet group.

4) Act. If you’ve zeroed in on a problem facing your community and have an idea on how to address it, then share it with your city council member (No. 1), bring it before your neighborhood association or local committee (if applicable, No. 2) and discuss it on your blog (No. 3). If it’s a good idea, and the timing is right, it might just take off.

City Misses Bus to Find Low UM-Shuttle Ridership Causes

Shuttle – UM

Last Tuesday, the City Council voted to pay UMd DOT (Dept. of Transportation)  another $6000, so that City residents can ride the UM-Shuttle services one more year, free of cost.

The discussion preceding the council vote in continuing UM-Shuttle services largely was centered on the money part – the ridership cost. Little discussion or studies we can see in finding what is causing the continuation of this low ridership.

The City started the UM-Shuttle partnership program back in 2008, but has found the riderships keep going downward until recently.

On the surface, the City’s UM-Shuttle contract sounds like a dream program comes true. It promotes the culture of public transportation, a term that everyone, especially our politicians love to talk. Then, or may be most importantly, the program tries to bring the two groups of City residents in one place. Doesn’t this look good when you see a long time city resident sitting next to a UMd student? Who said there is a cultural clash  between these two groups? This certainly sounds like the beginning of a new peaceful era in our City’s history.

But let’s face this – the UM-shuttle contract isn’t working. The ridership is going down every year, and the City is losing money at the end.

Could scrapping the contract altogether is the only solution? That probably is likely to happen next year, whether we like or not.

Instead of predicting the future, I think our time will be better spent if we concentrate on what is causing this low ridership.

First, let’s face this, very few of our residents really know about the program. When they see the UM-Shuttle, there is no way to know for them if they can ride those buses. The first thing that probably crosses their minds is – this isn’t for them to ride, it’s for students. I know the City has the information on its website and some of our bus stops also have the information posted, but how the residents who don’t use any public transportation now can find this information? Isn’t this marketing 101, Duh? Get the word out first o its customers who really need them.

Then there is the question of real demands for such ridership, given the routes these shuttles take. For example, the only bus route that go through our neighborhood is 110 – Seven Spring apartments. Unless someone works for the UMd, why would someone take this bus, I wonder. If a resident wants to go to DC or neighboring cities, s/he would most likely take Metro bus or train.

Some may also argue that these shuttles aren’t quite frequent, as studies have shown upping frequencies can increase bus riderships. But I don’t think that is the case. The shuttles actually runs fairly frequently during rush hours, as frequent as every 20 minutes or so.

Seriously, let’s not do this guessing game. I think the City along with its neighborhood groups should do a study / survey on expected ridership from its residents before it decides the fate of this partnership program. Who knows there may be a serious demand for a shuttle program for its residents? – Let’s find that out first.

Poll: What’s in an Age?

Mr. Councilman (c) 2010 WeeBabyStuff
Mr. Councilman
(c) 2010 WeeBabyStuff

Here they come –  around this time of the year – every other year. They knock your doors, beg your votes – they want to serve you.

They are your council members. If they’re lucky to get elected, they become your objects of hate or love, depending on the way they vote in numerous council sessions in their two year terms.

Traditionally, they’ve been coming from older generations. In recent years, that tradition has changed though. Last year our City saw its youngest councilmember, Marcus Afzali. Afzali is young (he’s 25) and smart, but he thinks he’s a bit older than many of his young generation, who can be even smarter. That’s why, he has brought a legislation to change the minimum age for City council candidate. In this week’s council session, the City has decided to listen to what the residents have to say about this proposed changes. That public hearing will take place on Oct 26 at 7pm.

If approved, the City would lower the minimum age for the mayor and council members to 18. Currently, council members must be 21 by the time they take office — the mayor has to be 25 — and all candidates must have lived in the city for at least one year prior to Election Day.

The proponents of the change argue that it’s all about fairness. If someone knows enough about the City affairs and is smart enough to judge what’s good for his constituents, why stop him or her?

On the other hand, opponents think the City is taking a risk of letting its younger folks make important decisions that might have negative consequences. They argue experience and judgment come with age.

So what do you think? Do you think the City should lower the minimum age requirement for your next council candidate? Yes, No, Undecided?

Do you support minimum age for council candidate to be lowered to 18?

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