City Ranked Best To Raise Families in MD

College Park - The Best City in MD

Perhaps this is the best news of the year our City residents can celebrate.

Last Tuesday, the Bloomberg BusinessWeek, reported that our beloved city is the best place in the entire state of Maryland to raise families in 2011.

The City of Bel Air came as runner-up.

I’m definitely going to use this news in my “Welcome College Park” project that I wrote about earlier. I’m sure news like this will entice more families to move to our town.

Bloomberg used 2010 data from Onboard Informatics, a real estate information and technology company in New York and evaluated a total of 5,418 locations nationwide with populations larger than the state median but no larger than 50,000.

According to the report,

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 (within the county), such as parks, zoos, theaters, and museums.

Here are a few reasons why Bloomberg made this decision:

  • Home to the University of Maryland, College Park was developed starting the late 1800s.
  • Part of the city is part of the Calvert Hills Historic District and a number of historic sites are in the area, including College Park Airport, the oldest continuously operated airport in the world.
  • According to longandfoster.com, many families move to College Park for its good schools (four elementary schools, three middle schools, and four high schools)
  • Proximity to Washington, D.C., about 10 miles away
  • Accessible by Metro.

Lackawanna Streetscape Project Turns Street into ‘a Runway’, Residents Complain

Lackawanna Streetscape Plan

Lackawanna Streetscape Plan

The $100K Lackawanna streetscape project that was once designed to give a facelift to one of north College Park’s major neighborhood street is instead stirring much controversy, so much so that some neighbors on the street think the City is ruining their neighborhood street.

The City received the funding through Maryland Heritage Areas Authority (MHAA) grant to beautify the east part of Lackawanna St. between Narragansett Pkwy and 53rd Avenue. Many residents use the street as an access point to the north gate of the Greenbelt Metro station.

At the heart of the controversy lies the rows of bright white street lights that the City’s engineer and planner have used to illuminate the 2500 ft long street segment. Though the City has been working on the streetscape project for more than a year, Pepco activated the lights last Friday.

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In Speed Cameras, City Finds a Treasure Trove, But Can Take Only a Fraction to Its Coffer

A treasure trove

A cash-strapped city that has been scrambling to recover thousands of dollars of lost revenue will probably get some relief through its newly installed speed cameras. A recession-hit economy has cost the City with a loss in state funds and a reduction of property taxes due to declining house prices. The City has been using means such as a $5 hike in parking permit fees to recover from such loss of revenues.

The City first installed speed cameras in 3 locations – Metzerott Road, Paint Branch Parkway and Rhode Island Avenue. A new camera was recently installed on Route 1. Per state regulations, all these cameras must be installed within half a mile from an educational institution, such as a local school or the University of Maryland.

In last May, the 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 went into operation on November 15. As of close of business on December 7, a total of 8663 citations were issued, which roughly turns out to be an average of 377 per day. Out of the $40 charged per ticket, the City receives $24 and Optotraffic receives $16; this means that the City is getting $9048 per day. If the trend continues, the yearly revenue from the cameras will be around $3,302,520. For this fiscal year which ends in June 2011, the projected revenue will however be around $2 million.

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City Tries to Clarify Rent Control Ordinances

House for Rent

 In last Thursday’s NCPCA meeting at Davis Hall, members debated the pros and cons of City’s rent control ordinances. The City has been trying to enforce the ordinances after winning a long legal battle against the landlords who have been opposing the ordinances for some time.  

In the meeting, District 2 council member Bob Catlin tried to convince members about the benefit of the ordinances, however only few seemed to understand and be convinced by Mr. Catlin’s explanation. At the end, members passed a motion asking the City to clarify the ordinances. 

In the meeting, Mayor Fellows and Mr. Catlin mentioned about document on the City’s website that covers a “Frequently Asked Questions” on these ordinances. 

You can also check the FAQ below: 

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Dramatic Police Chase Rocks the City

Damaged Police Car (the Patch)

It was around 5:45pm last night. I was doing some shopping with my wife, when I received a call from one of my friends in Hollywood area. He said there have been some unusual police activities on Rhode Island avenue and Edgewood Road. According to him, more than a dozen police cars have been cruising back and forth at a high speed on these streets with a loud sirens.

I immediately called District 1 police chief Major Robert Liberati and the Community Police officer Jaron Black. About half an hour later, Mr. Liberati replied and we then talked for some time. It turned out that the activities were related to a high speed police car chase following a crime incident in a downtown store. Unfortunately, the suspect in the incident escaped the incident.

I later came to know more about the incident from the Washington Post, the TBD and the College Park Patch and the Diamondback. Interestingly, the bad guy dodged the cops, after he left his own car in Beltsville area. During the chase, he tried to rob at least two stores in College Park. The elite K-9 unit was deployed, but couldn’t catch the bad guy. Two police cars have also been damaged during the chase.

Police said the suspect is a white man in his 50s with a blue jacket and a hat who was driving a four-door Cadillac.

Clothing Drive Update

Clothing Drive 2010

First, thanks to everyone for your kind donations of warm winter clothes in this year’s Winter Clothing Drive.

So far, we have collected about 20 or so large boxes of clothes from 3 locations, NCPCA meeting at Davis Hall, Pizza Roma and Al-Huda School. Though the drive at the Pizza Roma closed as of yesterday, the drive at the  Al-Huda school location has been extended until tomorrow, Monday.

In case you haven’t made your donations yet, please do so either tomorrow at AlHuda school, or at the Berwyn Baptist Church, from January 2-16, 2011 (box at the sanctuary).

Thanks also the Boxes etc. (an the REI/MoM shopping plaza), for their kind donations of boxes that have been used in this drive.

Also, thanks to the College Park Patch for getting the words out about the drive. Please see their article here.

Lights Flood Lackawanna Street

Lackawanna St. Light

In this holiday season, when residents decorate their house porches and roof tops with red, green and white lights, a city street has joined that festivities with rows of bright white lights.

Though a coincidence, Lackawanna Street at the Greenbelt Metro’s north entrance, received this face lift through a project called “Lackawanna St. Streetscape”.

Pepco energized the lights last night.

The City received a funding of $100,000 from  Maryland Heritage Areas Authority (MHAA) for pedestrian streetlights as part of the project and lies within the Anacostia Heritage Area (ATHA). 

The North College Park Citizens Association, on March 13, 2009, sent a letter to MHAA supporting the City of College Park’s application for necessary funds in fiscal year 2010.

The project covers the area between Narragansett Pkwy. and the Greenbelt Metro. 

The original project plan includes: upgrade the sidewalks to a brick-like finish to match the homes, plant new trees, gradually change the fences to match the homes, build new crosswalks at intersections, use traffic control measure such as neckdowns (narrowing of roadway) to slow speeders, improve street signage, construct a more attractive gateway to the Metro station, add an alternate footpath to the Metro, and underground the utilities if financially feasible.Lackawanna streetscape.

An artist's rendering of Lackawanna St. streetscape

Second Leaf Collection Begins Next Week

Leaf Collections

The second and probably the last leaf colelction in this fall season will begin next week. The first collection happened early last month. 

For a calendar of the collection schedule in your area, please check here or the collection notice posted on your neighborhood street.

Also, please be mindful of a few things during this collection time: 

  • Rake leaves to the curb, but not into the street. Pile leaves away from cars and storm drains. The leaf vacuum cannot reach around cars, and will not be able to collect your leaves.
  • Remove all tree limbs, rocks and other debris from leaves to be collected. They can damage the equipment and cause delays.
  • Noise and dust may be noticeable. Dry conditions generate more dust. We apologize for any inconvenience.
  • If you bag leaves, please put them out when the leaf vacuum is scheduled. Use paper yard waste bags or approved reusable containers. Do not put them out with regular trash.
  • The leaf vacuum only makes collections in the fall.

If you have any questions, please feel free to call Public Works at 240-487-3590 or send them an email at publicworks@collegeparkmd.gov

Rent Control, East Campus and Public Safety at Tonight’s NCPCA Meeting

NCPCA - Your Neighborhood Association

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

Here are a few highlights of tonight’s meeting:

Rent Control: After winning a long legal battle, the City will soon start enforcing rent control ordinances in its rental properties. The ordinances allow the landlords to charge rents only upto a certain limit, which can be found on City’s website. In the last November meeting, NCPCA member Kimberly James raised this concern that such ordinances discourage landlords to buy new rental properties. Members later adopted a motion to have a full scale discussion provided someone from the City level participates. That person on the City’s side will be district 2 council member Bob Catlin. I think it will be an interesting discussion.

East Campus Development: In the last meeting, members decided to send someone from NCPCA as a representative of the East Campus development steering committee. Later, president appointed member Adam Kushner as that representative. A week ago, the East Campus developer attended a town hall type public forum where many residents also joined. Adam Kushner will lead this discussion.

Public Safety: Our new District 1 Community police liaison officer POFC Jaron Black has recently started a weekly morning Coffee Club with local residents in College Park to discuss latest public safety related issues in our neighborhoods. While this has been a great initiative by Ofc Black, many residents have expressed concerns that the timing of the meeting is rather inconvenient for many working neighbors. Hopefully, those neighbors will find tonight’s presentation by Of. Black useful.

Detailed meeting agenda can be found at our website http://myncpca.org

Book a Treasure of College Park’s History

College Park has a century old rich history that we can all be proud of, yet when it comes to searching those precious gems, there aren’t too many resources we can find. The City does not have a place where it has archived various books and pictures that have been lying around here and there. The council member Stephanie Stullich did an excellent job in collecting some of those pictures in a book a few years back, however there are more than a few pictures that we need to preserve.

One of these precious gems include a fairly old book by T. Raymond Burch. Titled “History and Development of the City of College Park, Berwyn Heights, Greenbelt and Adjacent Areas”, the book was first published in 1965 and is now out of print. Only a few may have a copy of this precious treasure.

Recently, College Park resident Jane Kushner Hopkins found a copy of this book in the rare collections of her dad Alvin Kushner, who served as the Mayor of College Park for two terms from 1985 to 1989. The Gazette had an artcle on Mr. Kushner’s Mayoral race in this week’s edition.

Jane took the pain of scanning the book in PDF format, which I’ve uploaded here. Jane said she has a few more such treasures which she has found in her dad’s collection. “..too bad the city doesn’t have an office or files or something set aside for history.“- wrote Jane in an email to me.

Baker Replaces Hylton by Magaw

Lt/ Col. Magaw

Yesterday, Mark Magaw was named as Interim Police Chief of the Prince George’s County Police Department by County Executive Rushern Baker. Magaw began his duties as Interim Chief of the nation’s 32nd largest police department, replacing former Chief of Police Roberto Hylton.

Though crime has dropped steadily during his serving term, Roberto Hylton was amid the scandals surrounding last spring’s student riots in University of Maryland. The riot drew international attention.

Chief Magaw, a 27 year veteran of the police department, previously served as the Deputy Chief in charge of the Bureau of Strategic Management. “I am honored and humbled to be appointed Interim Chief of the Prince George’s County Police Department by County Executive Baker. This is an outstanding police department with dedicated employees who serve our residents every day. I will do everything I can to continue to move our agency forward,” stated Chief Magaw.
Chief Magaw will serve as Interim Police Chief until a permanent Chief is named.

Bake will make the formal announcement in a press conference today at 10:45am at Police Headquarters, 7600 Barlowe Road, Landover, Maryland 20785

School Traffic – Should We Care?

I often come across discussions surrounding the subjects of neighborhood traffic. In many cases these discussions point to buildings and institutions, such as schools that cause such traffic.

The issue of traffic is something that always keeps neighbors busy discussing. Whenever a new development is about to happen in the neighborhood, residents often ask three questions; and they are – traffic, traffic and traffic.

And there are good reasons why we ought to care about traffic in the neighborhood. A high traffic is not only a good source of harmful pollutants, but also for institutions like schools, a busy traffic pattern on a school’s access roads will be unsafe for the children who walk to that school.

Fortunately, there are City guidelines that dictate the maximum amount of traffic that any segment of our city streets can handle, based on the width of these streets. These guidelines use a measurement index, called VFD (vehicle per day) to define the capacity of these streets. Indices such as VFD do not only reflect the engineering aspects of these streets, but these figures also help us to gauge the tolerable amount of traffic a neighborhood street can take.

Some can also try to use these VFD data to point to traffic situation caused by an institution, with obvious caveat off course – there could most likely be more than one entity that draw traffic to a neighborhood street.

One of these entities I mentioned above could be a school in our city. Our city has 6 schools – 2 of them are public schools, Hollywood Elementary and Paint branch Middle. The rest 4 are private schools – Berwyn Christian, Friends Community, Holy Redeemer and AlHuda. (Btw, AlHuda is planning to leave College Park to a newer $15 million “home”, per their website).

Though the VFD data on a street that leads to one of these schools can be attributed to that particular school, I’m not aware if any of the City’s 6 schools are violating the VFD guidance that I mentioned earlier.

That said, VFDs indicate a cumulative traffic data over a period of a day. During part of the days, especially when a school starts and dismisses, you’d see line of cars going in and out of that school. This is a picture that we see on all of the access streets that go to all of our 6 city schools.

That said, there are rooms to improve the traffic situation on schools’ access roads, especially during these peak times of the day.

One way to improve peak time school traffic is cut back is to institute car pooling. Car pooling not only reduces number of vehicles on streets, but also gives convenience to parents in their busy morning schedules.

There are other ways to address peak time school traffic. One idea I am a big fan of is to institute walking or biking to the school. I believe the Hollywood Elementary school had a Walk to School week early this year; I think that was wonderful.

Another idea is to raise traffic awareness among parents. Most parents who drive irresponsibly on neighborhood streets often need reminder to behave. I took part of a few traffic awareness campaign near schools before, but I think we should do this more often.

Another idea is to support school busing. While some of the City schools have bus services, most schools don’t have. Especially for private schools, where parents pay a hefty tuition fee to keep their children in the school,  maintaining a school bus can prove to be quite expensive.  There are other limitations, such as a narrow access street, that might prevent from having a school bus system. I think coordination with County’s public school bus system can help alleviate the cost of busing for these schools.

Most importantly, residents need to work together in support of their neighborhood schools. The best institution a neighborhood can have is an educational institution, such as a school. Good schools are indications of strong neighborhoods, thus no matter whether our children go to one of our city schools or not, we should all try our best to nurture and help these schools by instituting ideas I described before.

Winter Clothing Drive, 2010

Winter Clothing Drive, 2010

Like last year, we are about to start this year’s winter clothing drive.

It’s that time of year to clean out your closets and pass along your gently used winter clothes to local children and seniors in need. We will be accepting any warm cloths, such as coats, sweaters, jackets, pants, gloves and scarves etc. Please make sure that the items are clean, has no stains, extreme wear, holes or tears.

With the help of neighbors like you, we collected some 15 large boxes of clothes last year. The donated items were later distributed to a number of local charities.

If you plan to come to the next week’s NCPCA meeting on Thursday, you can drop off your donation items in the donation bin at the Davis Hall.

You can also drop off your donations at the Pizza Roma store at the REI / MoM shopping center (from 6 to 11 December) .

Also if you know any family or elderly neighbor in need of winter clothes, please let me know.

For more information, please contact me at faz.kabir@gmail.com / 301-659-6295 or Kennis Termini at 301-474-1249 / kennis.termini@yahoo.com ).

Serial Armed Robberies Strike North College Park

Yesterday, I received to emails from the Nixle system,  alerting us about two armed robberies in north College Park. Both robberies occurred just in 20 minutes apart.

Here is the first alert:

On December 2, 2010 at approximately 11:22 p.m. patrol officers responded to the 5000 block of Branchville Road for a call of a citizen armed robbery. When they arrived, the victim stated he was walking home when the suspects approached him from behind. One of the suspects displayed a handgun and announced a robbery. The suspects then instructed the victim to remove all his property. Fearing for his life the Victim complied. The suspects took the victim’s property and fled the area. The suspects are described as hispanic males, 5’10” in height, 160 pounds, and approximately 18-20 years of age. One of the suspects was armed with a silver handgun.

.. and here is the second one:

On December 12, 2010 at approximately 11:42 p.m., patrol officers responded to 48th Avenue and Indian Lane for the report of a citizen armed robbery. When officers arrived, contact was made with the victim who stated while he was was walking home, he was approached by two suspects. The victim stated one of the suspects displayed a silver handgun and demanded his property. Fearing for his life, the victim complied with the suspects demands. The suspects fled the scene. The suspects are described as hispanic males between the ages of of 17-25. They were last seen wearing dark clothing.

Both incidents had similar suspects (Hispanic males, ages 17-25) with silver handgun.  Looks like the guys robbed at Branchville Rd. first, then came to 48th ave. /Indian Ln. 20 minutes later.

Please see also the Gazette report here.


Updates on Blue Light Phone, Camera Petition at Greenbelt Metro

Blue Light Phone

It’s been a while since we talked about the safety measures at the Greenbelt Metro entrance.

Our discussion started since the assault incident last summer, when a 15yr old girl was sexually assaulted at the place. Since then, we talked many things on how to improve safety of the neighbors who ride Metro through that entrance. I thought I should give you some updates on those measures.

First the camera petition drive, where we had asked WMATA to install security camera at the Metro pathway has been quite successful. We’ve collected more than 200 signatures from the riders and nearby residents. The Mayor and Council will soon send that petition to the WMATA along with a few other requests, such as additional lights etc. An email from a Metro official suggests that they are not aware of such initiative, but will check further. ” …this time, I’m not aware as to whether WMATA is planning to place a camera(s) or additional lighting on the exterior of the Greenbelt station. I will inquire if these security measures are in the planning for station security enhancements.” – says the email.

The blue light phone was scheduled to be installed in last August, however it’s taking a bit more time. The good news is that the plan was to install such lights is tied up with Lackawanna St. streetsacpe work, which has already started. so let’s wait a little more, the lights should be there any time soon.