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New elementary school to open with performing arts theme, Spanish immersion school likely. PAGE 9

Hyattsville resident keeps money and stormwater from going down the drain. PAGE 5

Local restaurants offer wealth of dining options for sensitive stomachs. PAGE 3

City weighs Humvee acquisition City can get one for free, but some on council wonder: At what cost? by Susie Currie

Humvee or no humvee? That is the question facing the Hyattsville City Council as it decides whether the police department should accept a free military-surplus High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV), commonly known as a Humvee. Councilmembers discussed the issue at their January 6 meeting, following a December 24 memo from Hyattsville City Police Chief Douglas Holland that advocated getting one “to improve the City’s ability to adequately respond to both natural and manmade disasters.” The council is expected to vote on it on January 21. Under a 1997 federal law, the Department of Defense can transfer its excess property to federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. The inventory of available hand-me-downs changes constantly and ranges from file cabinets, treadmills and microwaves to M16s, helicopters and Humvees. Since the program

Hyattsville Life&Times

Vol. 11 No. 1

Hyattsville’s Community Newspaper

Sale of WSSC site could be watershed moment for city by Susie Currie and Gray OʼDwyer

After years of inaction, the former headquarters of the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission has garnered a lot of attention in recent weeks. In early January, a sign posted by Ideal Realty Group in front of 4017 Hamilton Street was the first public notice that current owner Douglas Development intends to sell it. The property includes not only the WSSC building, as it is commonly known, but also the even larger parking lot across Hamilton

Street — a total of more than seven sprawling acres next to Magruder Park. The building itself, which sits on a 3.19-acre lot, was constructed in three stages. The earliest section, dating to 1939, is also the smallest. Four-story additions enlarged the structure in 1953 and 1964 to accommodate the expanding utility, which supplies water to most of Prince George’s and Montgomery counties. WSSC abandoned its historic headquarters in 2001 to move into a new skyscraper in Laurel, and the building has been empty ever

since. The property was sold in 2005 to major D.C.-area developer Douglas Jemal, who outbid a city-backed plan for it that would have put single-family homes on the site and deeded the parking-lot parcel to Hyattsville. Douglas Development completed major asbestos remediation that gutted the building’s interior, leaving it with little or no interior historical integrity. The exteriors, however, remain significantly intact, including the 1939 Art Deco façade and the two-story WSSC continued on page 12

Art Works loses decision, but not hope by Danielle Probst


HUMVEE continued on page 11

Hyattsville Life & Times PO Box 132 Hyattsville, MD 20781

January 2014

COURTESY OF ART WORKS An artistʼs rendering of the exterior of the proposed Art Works renovation project at 4800 Rhode Island Avenue.

While a December decision by the Historic Preservation Commission seemed likely to derail the planned Art Works/Pizza Paradiso project at the former Marche building, it now appears that the project will go forward, though details are yet to be determined. On January 8, Art Works issued a statement announcing that they will be appearing a second time in front of the Commissioners on January 21 “as part of a public Historic Area Work Permit meeting where we will be discussing our design plans for the property.” While public, this meeting is not expected to draw the level of participation and testimony as the earlier one on December ART WORKS continued on page 13

Included: The January 15, 2014 Issue of The Hyattsville Reporter — See Center Section

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Hyattsville Life & Times | January 2014


School CEO off to good start by Rosanna Landis Weaver

Earlier this month it was announced that Prince George’s County Public School CEO Kevin Maxwell has been named one of four finalists for 2014 National Superintendent of the Year. It is sad and cynical fact that longtime residents of Prince George’s County may respond with concern to news of an educator winning an award, because often it seems that such recognition leads to a better job outside the county. After all, our record for administrators is not good: the county school system has

A community newspaper chronicling the life and times of Hyattsville Mailing address: PO Box 132, Hyattsville, MD 20781

had eight superintendents in 14 years. Many left for better paying jobs. John Deasy (May 2006 to September 2008) left for the Gates Foundation and then Los Angeles Unified School District, and William Hite, Jr., who replaced him first on an interim and then a permanent basis, left in 2012 to head the Philadelphia school system. Following Hite’s departure, Alvin Crawley ably served as interim superintendent until Maxwell’s appointment last August. Crawley was lauded for his stewardship and dedication, but “interim” by definition does not put one in the position of making bold changes and the system needs more than stewardship. Yet Maxwell’s most recent accolade — he already had won the State level award — did not alarm me. There’s good reason

NOT to worry that any award will be used as leverage for a better-paying position elsewhere. This is Maxwell’s first academic year heading PGCPS, so the nomination is essentially for his work as superintendent for Anne Arundel County Public Schools from July 2006 through July 2013. At that time he left and signed a contract with PGCPS that runs through August 2017. There’s no reason to think he will not honor that. For one thing, his roots are here. His family moved to Prince George’s County when he was in second grade. He graduated from Bladensburg High School and later taught there. From 1992 to 2000 he was principal at Northwestern High School. Even when he took jobs outside the county he continued to live in Bowie. In addition, he doesn’t seem to be that sort of guy. His response

to his nomination was to note how many people are involved in making a school system work. Maxwell was selected for his CEO position position by County Executive Rushern Baker, after a shake-up, viewed by some as a power grab, that changed the rules so that the hiring the head of the school system fell under the purview of his office rather than the elected school board. Early indications are good that whatever one feels about that change, the selection of Maxwell was an excellent choice. The teachers I’ve spoken to at Northwestern who served while he was there speak very highly of him. It is too early to speak to what he has accomplished thus far. Good news accumulates slowly and often doesn’t have a news angle. Quiet decisions, like the fact that sports were reinstated at middle schools, may or may not

be traced back to him. His proposed budget for the upcoming school year seems a positive step, and local residents are excited about both the arts elementary school and the possibility of a nearby Spanish immersion elementary. (See page 9.) Running the school system of a county that encompasses 495 square miles is no easy job, and keeping superintendents is a problem for many large school systems. At the December meeting one of the rationales for moving sixth graders to middle school was that there are “positive performance differences for students that change schools less frequently.” I would postulate that there are likewise positive performance differences for school systems that change superintendents less frequently. Let us hope that Maxwell will stay long enough to help the many good individuals working in the system to create a functional bureaucracy that focuses on educating children, rather than the next job down the line. hyattsvillelifeandtimes Hyattsville Life & Times is published monthly by Hyattsville Community Newspaper, Inc., a 501c(3) nonprofit corporation. Editors welcome reader input, tips, articles, letters, opinion pieces and photographs, which may be submitted using the mailing address above or the email addresses below. Executive Editor Susie Currie 301.633.9209 Managing Editor Rosanna Landis Weaver 301.277.5939 Editorial Intern Scarlett Salem Production Ashley Perks Advertising 301.531.5234 Writers & Contributors Victoria Hille, Molly Parrish, Valerie Russell, Fred Seitz, Hugh Turley Board of Directors Joseph Gigliotti - President and General Counsel Chris Currie - Vice President Susie Currie - Secretary Peggy Dee, Karen J. Riley, Valerie Russell Gretchen Brodtman, Debra Franklin, T. Carter Ross Rosanna Landis Weaver - Ex Officio Circulation: Copies are distributed monthly by U.S. Mail to every address in Hyattsville. Additional copies are distributed to libraries, selected businesses, community centers and churches in the city. Total circulation is 9,300. HL&T is a member of the National Newspaper Association.

MyTwoCents Resolve to help a local child this year by Britt Jung

Can you imagine what it would be like to be a child living in foster care and have no one exclaiming “I want you!”? To have no one fighting for you? That is the reality for hundreds of abused and neglected kids in foster care in Prince George’s County. That is why I became a volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA). As a former teacher, I was looking for an opportunity to help, to give back. When a friend in D.C. told me about her experience as a CASA, I thought, “I’m capable and able. Why wouldn’t I help?” So many kids are dealt a bad hand and need someone to stand up for them. A lot of people understand what a mentor is, but it’s a bit harder to explain what a CASA does. We’re the objective set of eyes and ears in the case, looking at the whole child. It doesn’t take any special education or experience; volunteers get plenty of training and a full day of courtroom observation before they can start work. A CASA is just someone with a little extra room, a little extra energy to share with a child who needs an impartial advocate. Every situation is different, but every child needs a thoughtful, consistent person to be there when it matters. It’s not a huge time commitment, but for a child in foster care, knowing

that there is someone out there rooting for them can be life-changing. After going through screening and training, I was assigned the case of a 14-year-old girl, who has been bounced between relatives and foster homes so many times that I haven’t been able to piece together the timeline of her life. She is now in her second foster home just in the year and a half since I’ve known her. The county Department of Social Services (DSS) ensures that her physical needs are met, but it is difficult for DSS workers to give each child individual attention. A court order empowers me to access information and ask the right people the right questions so that I can be a voice for this young lady. As a CASA, I try not to be just another layer in the case. I’m the person who stays in contact with everyone in her life: her foster mother, both of her social workers, her counselor, her siblings’ CASAs, her teachers. That helps me make recommendations to the court about what is in her best interest. For example, I advocate to make sure she is able to see her five siblings and is getting the educational services she needs. When we go to court, the Master (the person who adjudicates the case) asks her social worker, attorney and me a lot of questions about her health and safety, family visits, and success

in school. When there’s a temporary crisis, I see my role as keeping my eyes on her future. I personally worry about what it means in the long term if she doesn’t start reading at grade level, and so have maintained a focus on getting her help with schoolwork. I also try to provide her with new experiences that will enrich and expand her life, like attending the inauguration or seeing a different part of the state. And though her options seem limited, her team is still working to try to make her dream of a permanent home come true. I’m proud of the work I do. But there are so many more kids out there who still don’t have anyone in their corner. In our county alone, more than 600 children are in foster care due to abuse or neglect. Only about 20 percent of them have advocates. If you are looking to make a difference, and you’re capable, why wouldn’t you help? Hyattsville resident Britt Jung has been a CASA/Prince George’s County volunteer since 2012. The next training session runs from January 30 to February 27, meeting on Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 6 to 9 p.m. There is no charge for the training, and a light dinner is included at each session. To apply, contact slee@ For more information, go to www. or call 301.209.0491.

Hyattsville Life & Times | January 2014

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Dining gluten-free in Hyattsville by Amanda Alley

It seems like more and more products in grocery stores are advertised as “gluten-free�; it’s a trend that is rapidly gaining momentum due to the increasing number of Americans avoiding gluten in their diets for various health reasons. Gluten, a protein found in many grains such as wheat, barley, and rye, is a trigger for over 3 million Americans affected by celiac disease (other grains, such as rice, quinoa, and corn are safe to eat). Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder and causes inflammation of the small intestine leading to nutrient deficiencies and greater risk for serious intestinal illnesses. A gluten-free diet is essential to maintaining optimal health for those with celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity. Such a diet requires a little more precaution, but food can still be delicious and accessible. Finding gluten-free offerings at restaurants can still present a real challenge. Fortunately, there are some great restaurants right here in Hyattsville that cater to this dietary restriction.

AMANDA ALLEY Qdoba, in University Town Center, has several gluten-free options. The author recently lunched on this “naked burrito� chicken bowl and brown rice, fajita veggies, pico de gallo, cheese, lettuce and an order of tortilla chips.

When I first moved to the area last year, I immediately gravitated toward Spice 6 Modern Indian, in the Shoppes at Arts District Hyattsville. It’s cute, casual and smells divine. The menu offers many rice


City passes Human Rights Act? At times like now, I’m perplexed over the priorities of government officials, from the federal government right down to the municipal level. Of all the issues our city government should be involved in, the Human Rights Act (“City Passes Human Rights Act,� December 2013) shows the level of concern our fine city officials have for the masses. Now, never mind other important issues our city should address — you know, small stuff like crime, police protection, traffic, parking enforcement, public works, and even very simple stuff like the Mayor and Council making sure the city staff do their jobs. Like the completion of a state-required audit, which Hyattsville is three years delayed in filing. (It’s the only city in Maryland that has failed to do [this]. Great oversight, Mr. Mayor!) But we can all rest easy now because Hyattsville is now the fifth Maryland municipality to pass a Human Rights Act. Ta-da! Problems solved. Our City officials should be concerned with real, everyday issues that affect the proper administration and oversight of the City. David Thomas Hyattsville

and meat dishes as well as heaping salads. Online ordering is also very convenient and indicates which of their items are gluten-free. (Also in

the Shoppes is Elevation Burger, which touts its lettuce-wrapped organic burger as a paleo and glutenfree option.) Indian food is just one of several ethnic cuisines that inherently fit the diet. Hispanic food is another easy (and tasty) option. Qdoba, right in University Town Center, is a sure bet if you need something fast, filling and stress-free. Many items on the menu are glutenfree: any “naked burrito� (without the flour tortilla), corn nachos, and chips and salsa. Be aware if the person before you ordered a burrito or flour tacos, and feel free to ask your server to change their gloves before preparing your food. Pupusas, a traditional Salvadorian food, are also glutenfree. These corn tortillas are filled with different cheeses and meats and topped with a scrumptious, homemade slaw. The Hyattsville area is chock full of pupuserias, such as Irene’s Pupuseria on University Boulevard. Last, but not least, is the Hyattsville staple, Franklins. Even

though Franklins serves traditional pub food, such as sandwiches, pizzas, and deep-fried foods, many of their delectable offerings can be made gluten-free with just a few adjustments. From the spinach and crab dips, to the orange and pomegranate salad, to coconut curried vegetables, you certainly won’t leave hungry. The servers are knowledgeable about gluten-free foods and can provide a comprehensive list of menu items containing allergens. While there are many gluten-free options at local restaurants, be aware that there is always the risk of cross-contamination anywhere you go, unless the kitchen is dedicated gluten-free. Another key to staying away from gluten is to be open with your server about your condition and ask them questions about the ingredients in any dish. Don’t feel bad about bringing your own gluten-free sauces or crackers to a restaurant, either – it would be a shame to let that crab dip at Franklins just sit there! Amanda Alley, who moved to the Hyattsville area last year, was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2006, and has been obsessed with glutenfree foods ever since.






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Hyattsville Life & Times | January 2014

Yoga studio offers hope for those with multiple sclerosis by Scarlett Salem

This month, droves of people will make resolutions for the coming year. Improving health is one of the most common goals, in part because the New Year follows the excesses of the holiday season. But for people with a chronic disease, getting fit can be more of a challenge. One Hyattsville business has designed a program to help people with multiple sclerosis (MS), an autoimmune disorder that affects more than 2.3 million worldwide, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. MS is a disease in which the body’s immune system attacks myelin, the protective sheath covering nerves in the central nervous system. Damage to myelin can lead to the deterioration of the nerves. Symptoms vary depending on the amount and the extent of the damage. There is no cure, but treatment can help mitigate MS attacks and slow progression of the disease. Though there are no figures on how many area residents have the condition, the Adaptive Yoga classes at Yoga Space routinely draw up to eight students whenever a session is offered, says instructor Douglas Thompson. Thompson founded Yoga Space in 2005, in a Gallatin Street storefront that is “exactly 200 steps” from his house. He began offering Adaptive Yoga in 2010, after having a student with the illness.

“We became friends. I watched the disease take its toll on him over the years,” recalled Thompson. “He felt the yoga helped him, while he was still able to do yoga.” Participants enroll in the Adaptive Yoga course hoping to retain or improve their mobility. “Some [students] may have a right leg that doesn’t function, or has very limited functioning,” Thompson explained. “Some may have difficulties with their left arm.” Nikki Johnson, who took the class in 2011, said it “was very beneficial to me and helped with my balance, posture and walking at the time.” In a recent e-mail, she told Thompson that she has been looking for a similar one near her new home in North Carolina. Yoga’s benefits go beyond the physical, said Thompson. “[It] seems to help ... their ability to cope with stress. And believe me, they have stresses to deal with. I am honored to be able to help them in this way,” he said. The National MS Society website notes that yoga can be beneficial because of its emphasis on relaxation, breathing, stretching and deliberate movements. The regional chapter lists adaptive yoga classes by county at www.MSandyou. org; Yoga Space has the only one in Prince George’s County. What’s more, the group offers financial assistance to cover the cost of the classes. Call 202.296.5363 for more information.

Thompson, who has been teaching yoga in Hyattsville since 1997, relies on his extensive experience for adjusting the class to the student. “Teaching such a class means constantly learning how to adapt on the spot. When one of my students couldn’t sit unaided, I found a kind of legless chair called a BackJack. With that, she can now sit on the floor in a cross-legged position and we can do seated poses and twisting poses. I try to find things that can be done either standing, sitting on the floor, or sitting on a chair.” “The struggle for some of moving from the floor to a chair is difficult, but necessary [for maintain-

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ing muscles used in daily living],” Thompson added, “so I have them moving back and forth several times during class.” But Thompson gladly accepts the challenge of instructing the class. “I feel very privileged to be a part of their world. The way they hold themselves up is a true inspiration, and makes any problems I might

have in my life pale by comparison.” Adaptive Yoga meets on Sundays from 4 to 5:30 p.m. at Yoga Space, 4206 Gallatin Street. $10 per class. The current session runs through March 9. For more information, visit or call 301.699.5440.

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Page 5

Local woman is among the first to cash in on county Rain Check by Susan Hines

In an event that was part tour, part celebration, Hyattsville resident Donna Reynolds accepted a $2,000 rebate check, and showed off the new driveway that earned the reward. Billed as a Stormwater Innovations Tour, the December 11 ceremony highlighted the new Prince George’s County Rain Check Rebate Program, which offsets the cost of projects that either capture rain or allow it to drain naturally through the soil. The Maryland Department of the Environment joined the Prince Georges County Department of Environmental Resources to draw attention to the program. A crowd of environmentalists and officials, including Maryland Secretary of the Environment Robert Summers, joined curious homeowners outside Reynolds’ home in the 5500 block of 43rd Avenue. Surrounded by posters saying “Don’t Blame the Rain” and “Less Pollution is the Solution,” County Environmental Resources Director Adam Ortiz called Reynolds and “green” landscaper Abel Rivas “heroes.” Ortiz went on to say, “Environmental protection is about recognizing our connection to each other, to the Earth, and to future generations ... who will feel the impact of how we spend our money and run our lives. Government regulations will only go so far. We need partners and friends.” Why do storm and rain water capture deserve attention? Our paved urban environment prevents rain and melted snow from being absorbed by the ground and cleansed by draining slowly through the soil before entering and recharging the groundwater system. Instead, stormwater runs off streets, sidewalks, parking lots, and even roofs, enters the storm drainage system and is directly discharged into rivers and streams. Direct discharge of unfiltered storm water harms neighborhoods. When drainage systems are overwhelmed, flash flooding occurs, sewers backup, water seeps through basement walls. Runoff causes pollution because contaminants such as gasoline, motor oil, heavy metals, animal feces, fertilizers, and pesticides are picked up by the flow and discharged — untreated — into streams, rivers and the Chesapeake Bay. A 2012 Maryland law, written to

Prince George’s County Department of Environmental Resources Donna Reynolds demonstrated with her garden hose how rain water slowly seeps through the pavers into the soil and replenish the groundwater below the surface instead of becoming contaminated stormwater runoff.

bring the state into compliance with the federal Clean Water Act of 2010, required nine counties and Baltimore City to collect fees from property owners to fund programs that mitigate stormwater runoff pollution. Del. Tom Hucker, a sponsor of the 2012 law who represents Silver Spring and Takoma Park, said at the time that the state’s 10 most urbanized jurisdictions were chosen; they have the most blacktop and buildings that contribute to the problematic runoff. Last July, the Prince George’s County Council passed legislation in response to the new mandate. As required by state law, a Clean Water Program was established, which provides for the setting, collection, and deposit of a Clean Water Act Fee into a local fund. Deemed the “Rain Tax” by opponents, the fee appeared on county residents’ last property tax bill; this fee supports capital improvements for stormwater management, including stream and wetland restoration projects, operation and maintenance of stormwater management systems and facilities, and grants of up to 100 percent of project cost for watershed restoration and rehabilitation projects taken on by nonprofit groups. Part of the fund is also dedicated to public outreach and edu-

cation about what residents can do to decrease both stormwater runoff from their own properties and the new fee. That’s what Reynolds, a 27-year resident of Hyattsville, seized upon when she received information on the Rain Check Rebate along with her tax bill. Already confronting the expense of replacing her cracked driveway, Reynolds decided to investigate alternatives to concrete or asphalt in hopes of tak-


ing advantage of the program. She selected a new permeable driveway of interlocking precast pavers installed to allow water to pass between the blocks and enter the ground. She also replaced the front walk with the same system. The work qualified for one of the county’s first rebates. In addition, reducing her property’s impervious surfacing means she will save $60 on next year’s Clean Water Act Fee.

Reynolds calls the rebate program “perfect, especially if it is something you are already going to do.” She is pleased with the completed project and credits Rivas, owner of the Hyattsvillebased Best Landscape & Construction, with his dedication to quality and attention to detail. Rivas also happens to be certified by the Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute (ICPI) on the proper installation of permeable concrete interlocking pavers. Installation by a licensed and qualified contractor is key to receiving a Rain Check rebate for permeable surface installation. Given the several layers of base and subbase necessary to prep for the pavers themselves, and the need for careful filling of the joints between pavers, this project is not a good candidate for DIY. While more complicated projects require paying professionals, many can be tackled by homeowners themselves: planting trees, acquiring rain barrels or cisterns, even installing a rain garden, Hyattsvillager Marybeth Shea is an English professor at University of Maryland and technical consultant to international environmental organizations. She notes that the Rain Check program is part of a new green economics strategy to pay citizens for providing or enhancing the environmental services nature provides for “free.” Such ecosystem services include water pollution filtering, erosion reduction, as well as preserving the carbon stored in the tree canopy. “My first rain gardens date from 2004, including one installed by a former student at Hamilton Street near Magruder Park,” Shea says. “Hyattsville continues to develop a green infrastructure that is a model for other Maryland communities.” To learn more, search “rain check rebate” at www.princegeorgescountymd. gov.

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Hyattsville Life & Times | January 2014

MissFloribunda Dear Miss Floribunda, Will the Hyattsville Horticulture Society (HHS) have a seed sale again this February? I certainly hope so, and this would be my fifth year coming. Now, I like the seeds provided from the Hart company. I am glad they are not genetically engineered; everything I’ve planted has sprouted; most of what has sprouted has thrived. However, over the years I haven’t noticed very many new introductions, and those few were among the vegetables. While I think white radishes with red centers and purple carrots and tomatoes are nice, I’d like to see more heirlooms and/ or a greater variety of new hybrids among flowers. Don’t give up on Hart altogether, please, but couldn’t you find some supplemental supplier among the other small companies that don’t flood supermarkets and mainstream hardware stores usually about a week after your sale? Half-Harted on Hamilton Street Dear Half-Harted, You are not without influence in Hyattsville, Maryland. First, the HHS will indeed have a sale on February 8 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Municipal Building in the Mary Prangley Room. In addition to seeds, we will have a book and bake sale, provide hot soup and drinks, and have tables with educational material manned by experts to answer your ques-

WIKIMEDIA Hybrid seeds, including those for purple cauliflower, will be available at the Hyattsville Horticultural Society seed sale.

tions. Next, in addition to the tried-and-true Hart selections, you will find alternative offerings from another even older company, Landreth Seeds. George Washington ordered seeds from them, and their standards haven’t faltered since his day. The selection is indeed impressive – the HHS seed committee has had to choose from more than 450 vegetable varieties and 200 floral ones. Heirloom varieties supplementing those of Hart will be available, as well as new hybrids. If you think purple carrots and tomatoes are cool, how about purple cauliflowers and purple potatoes? Scarlet lettuce? Lemon cucumbers? Of course, in addition to novelty the HHS seed committee makes sure everything selected will be appro-

priate to our climate and sure to thrive in our hot summers. Personally, I liked the Hart name for sentimental reasons, and its timeliness for our pre-Valentine dates each year. As you may know, we host the sale in February because the earlier you start your seeds indoors, the farther along they will be when you plant them outside after danger of frost is past. But Landreth even offers a Valentine Collection with a Victorian Language of Flowers theme. (I suspect few modern gardeners have guessed that the purple gomphrena we use in dried-flower arrangements symbolizes enduring love.) There is also a Children’s Garden Collection of easy-to-grow and colorful plants, an African-American Heritage Collection of vegetables that includes such rarities as burgundy okra, a Patio Collection of minis for apartment balcony gardeners that even includes tiny pumpkins. You won’t want to miss this.

NEWS BRIEFS SUSPECT NAMED IN OCTOBER ASSAULTS Why did it take nearly seven weeks for Prince George’s County Police Department officers to identify a suspect in the October 29 armed-robbery and sexual-assault spree near Northwestern High School? Because eight hours after the attacks, he was in jail after attempting another armed robbery in Montgomery County. But it was DNA from a Montgomery County sex assault earlier in 2013 that led detectives to 33-year-old Emerito ChicasSavala of Silver Spring. When it matched DNA from the local crime scene, county detectives obtained a warrant for him on December 13. He faces dozens of charges, including first- and second-degree rape as well as armed robbery. CITY ADMINISTRATOR TO BE NAMED SOON On January 11, city councilmembers met to interview three finalists for city administrator, a position Jerry Schiro left in December after only seven months. The three had already met with staff and department heads. The new city administrator could be named as early as January 21, the council’s next meeting, but

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the start date would likely be weeks later. “Once our offer is accepted, it may take another 30 days for the person to give notice and come on board with us,” Human Resources Director Vivian Snellman told the council at its January 6 meeting. Still, that would be record time for filling this position, which was vacant for over a year the last two times it was open. FORMER MAYOR TAKES JOB IN COLLEGE PARK After two years abroad, former Hyattsville mayor Bill Gardiner has returned to the area to become the assistant city manager of College Park, a job he started on January 13. Gardiner, who served as mayor from 2003 to 2011, moved to Chile shortly after the 2011 election when his wife, Anita, was offered a teaching position at a university in Santiago. “We always planned to return to the Hyattsville area, and the opportunity to work for the City of College Park is wonderful,” wrote Gardiner in an email. “The mayor’s role in Hyattsville is very different from this position, but much of the underlying work is similar — budgets, planning, legislation [and] working with the community.” — compiled by Susie Currie

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January 16

To mark its 35th anniversary, the Howard B. Owens Science Center hosts a Family Science Night, with hands-on activities, live animals, planetarium programs, special presentations and more. Free. 6 to 8:30 p.m. 9601 Greenbelt Road, Lanham. 301.918.8750 or howardb.owens@pgcps. org.

United Methodist Church to observe Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Day with workshops to discuss how to respond to violence and threats with non-violence. The program, called, “Nonviolence: Education, Character, a Way of Life” will include lunch and gifts for all children and youth that attend. Free. 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., 6201 Belcrest Road. 301.927.6133.

January 17

January 20 & February 5

This month’s nonfiction pick for The College Park Arts Exchange Book club is Chasing Chaos: My Decade In and Out of Humanitarian Aid, by Jessica Alexander. If photography is more your thing, The Underexposed photography club meets at the same time in the same building. 7:30 to 9 p.m. Old Parish House, 4711 Knox Road, College Park. or 301.927.3013.

January 18

All are welcome to join the discussion of Josephine Tey’s novel The Daughter of Time, in which a fictional detective solves the 15th-century mystery of whether King Richard III really murdered his two young nephews to take the English throne. Free. 3 p.m. Hyattsville Branch Library, 6530 Adelphi Road. 301.985.4690.

January 20

Join Community Ministry and First

If the skies are clear, you can do some stargazing at the University of Maryland Observatory Open House, which includes a presentation, tour and, weather permitting, observing the night sky. Free. 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. 3300 Metzerott Road, College Park. Contact Elizabeth Warner at

January 24

At Beer and the Borderlands, you can grab a local brew and learn how immigration affects wildlife and communities along the fence that separates the U.S. and Mexico. Gateway Arts District photographer Krista Schlyer discusses the eight-year documentary project that led to her award-winning book, Continental Divide: Wildlife, People and the Border Wall. Free; donations welcome. 7:30 p.m. Joe’s Movement Emporium, 3309 Bunker Hill Road, Mount Rainier. 202.213.6215 or

January 25

Young choreographers from the Washington metropolitan area present original works that open a window onto the future of dance at the 31st Annual Choreographers Showcase. $10 to $30. Showtimes at 3 and 8 p.m. Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, University of Maryland, College Park. 301.405.2787.

January 26

Joe’s Movement Emporium’s Annual Wellness Fair will include practitioners providing free sample services, including acupuncture and massage, movement classes, and lectures about key topics in wellness. Vendors will be selling healthy food and other items. Free. 1 to 5 p.m. Joe’s Movement Emporium, 3309 Bunker Hill Road, Mount Rainier. 301.699.1819.

January 27 The Hyattsville library’s Independent Film Series returns with Vegucated, an awardwinning 2010 documentary that follows three people through six weeks of a vegan diet as they learn about “the hidden sides of animal agriculture.” Afterwards, local filmmaker Miriam Machado-Jones will lead a discussion on the film. Free. 7 p.m. Hyattsville Branch Library, 6530 Adelphi Road. 301.985.4690.

February 4

Hyattsville Middle School is hosting a Winter Bazaar to raise money for a potential field trip to the Grand Canyon. If you are a vendor and would like to reserve a table call Danielle Luckett at 301.209.5830, otherwise come and find great bargains — clothing, crafts, books, cosmetics, jewelry and much more. Bring the whole family to increase your chances of winning fabulous door prizes. Free. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Hyattsville Middle School, 6001 42nd Avenue, Hyattsville.

February 6

The Hyattsville Preservation Association hosts Anya Schoolman, co-founder and president of the Mount Pleasant Solar Coop, for Solar Energy: It’s a Good Thing. Schoolman has helped more than 200 homeowners in Washington, D.C., switch to solar energy, and will answer questions about installing it in your home, including the special considerations that apply to historic districts. Free. 7:30 p.m. Prangley Room, Municipal Building, 4310 Gallatin Street. or 301.699.5440. The latest installment of Community Supported Music, the Gateway Community CALENDAR continued on page 8

Under the Sea

Parent and Child Dance Party

Saturday, February 22, 2014, 5 - 7 PM City Municipal Building, 4310 Gallatin Street

Kid-friendly music and dancing, plus refreshments and fun photos Tickets: $5.00 per guest Children must be accompanied by an adult throughout the evening Reservations required - 301/985/5021 or

Hyattsville Reporter Page HR1

Hyattsville Life & Times | January 2014


No. 280 • January 15, 2014 • 301-985-5000

Parent & child dance party goes under the sea

Join us on Saturday, February 22 from 5:00 to 7:00 PM for the 2014 Parent & Child Dance Party. This year’s theme is Under the Sea! The event takes place at the City Municipal Building, 4310 Gallatin Street. Join us for kidfriendly music and dancing, plus refreshments and fun photos! Tickets are $5.00 per person. Children must be accompanied by an adult throughout the evening. Space is limited, so reservations are required. To make a reservation, call 301/985-5021 or use the form at www.

Registration for Camp Magruder opens in Jan. The Department of Community Services runs Camp Magruder during the Prince George’s County Public Schools breaks. Upcoming dates for the 2013-2014 academic year are as follows: Spring Break: Monday, April 14 through Friday, April 18 Summer Break: First session begins Monday, June 16 Registration for Spring Break will open on Tuesday, January 21 at 9 AM. Registration for Summer Break will open on Tuesday, February 18 at 9 AM. CAMP MAGRUDER: SPRING BREAK Camp hours are Monday through Friday, 9:00 AM through 5:00 PM. Before care is available from 7:30 to 9:00 AM. After care is offered from 5:00 to 6:00 PM. The cost per Camper is $125. Before and After care are $10 each. Camp Magruder combines arts, sports, and general free-play. Tuition includes snacks and all supplies. Before care tuition includes breakfast. Enrollment is open to kids ages 5 through 10. CAMP MAGRUDER: SUMMER 2014 Camp hours are Monday through Friday, 9:00 AM through 5:00 PM.

Before care is available from 7:30 to 9:00 AM. After care is offered from 5:00 to 6:00 PM. The cost per Camper is $225 for each two-week session. Before and After care are $20 each. Camp Magruder combines arts, sports, and general free-play. Tuition includes snacks and all supplies, as well as weekly swimming trips to Hamilton Splash Pool and one field trip per session. Before care tuition includes breakfast. Enrollment is open to kids ages 5 through 10. Registering more than one Camper? Sibling discounts are available. The second Camper pays $175/Session for Full Day. Camp Magruder Summer 2014 Session Dates Session I: June 16 through June 27 Session II: June 30 through July 11* Session III: July 14 through July 25 Session IV: July 28 through Aug 8 Session V: Aug 11 through Aug 15** * Camp does not meet on Friday, July 4. ** One-week session; all fees are 50% of the posted session rates. Please note that we do not accept Session V only registrations. Campers must have attended at least one prior session during Summer 2014 to attend Session V. For any questions regarding Camp Magruder Programs, please contact Shane Bryan at 301-985-5065 or

Hyattsville Life & Times | January 2014


day; and May 26, due to the Memorial Day holiday. There are no other changes to the collection schedule at this time.

AGELESS GRACE CLASSES – If your household is served by the Department of Pub- NEW SEMESTER UNDERWAY lic Works, there is an important change coming to Yard Waste Collection. Starting January 2014, plastic bags are no longer accepted for Yard Waste Collection. Yard Waste is organic material, such as leaves, grass clippings, small branches, and brush. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, approximately 17% of all municipal solid waste is Yard Waste. Separating Yard Waste allows the City to take it to a Prince George’s County facility where it can be composted and re-used. Starting January 2014, Prince George’s County composting facilities no longer accepts Yard Waste in plastic bags. Residents may use heavy-duty paper bags, or separate trash cans. Branches may be bundled. Questions? Please call 301/985-5032 or email

Ageless Grace is a low impact exercise program for mind and body and consists of 21 simple exercises designed to improve healthy longevity. The exercises are designed to be performed in a chair and almost anyone can benefit from them, regardless of most physical conditions. And did we mention? It’s also great fun! Classes meet on Fridays at the Magruder Park Recreation Center, 3911 Hamilton Street and cost just $2 per class. The current semester runs through March. For more information or to register, please call 301/985-5058 or email Emily Stowers at

FIRST UNITED METHODIST CHURCH OF HYATTSVILLE: SPEAKOUT WORKSHOP ON BULLYING On Sunday, February 9 from 1:15 to 3:45 PM, First United Methodist Church of Hyattsville will present a SpeakOut workshop on Bullying. Do you, your neighbors’ or your friends’ school-age children exhibit the following behaviors: unexplained injuries, unexplained loss of personal belongings, poor school performance, self-Injury, declining self-esteem? Attend the SpeakOut workshop. First United Methodist Church is located at 6201 Belcrest Road., Rev. Joan Carter Rimbach, Senior Pastor, 301-927-6113. Questions? Email or ab2892@


nicipal Building on Thursday, February 13 at 7:30 PM to continue their discussion of Sugar in the Blood: A Family’s Story of Slavery and Empire. Participation is free and open to the public. Questions? Please call Council Member Robert Croslin at 240/460-1827.

THANK YOU FROM THE SONNY FRAZIER TOY DRIVE The Sonny Frazier Toy Drive has provided a happy holiday to area children again in 2013. Many thanks to each and everyone who attended the Third Annual Hyattsville Heroes Bowl, donated toys, or gave money to the drive.

HOLIDAY SCHEDULE FOR YARD WASTE COLLECTION There is no Yard Waste collection, City-wide, during the following holiday weeks: January 20, due to Martin Luther King, Jr. Day; February 17, due to the Presidents’ Day holi-

Joe’s Movement Emporium presents its January and February 2014 schedule. Questions? Visit or call 301/699-1819. Joe’s is located at 3309 Bunker Hill Road in Mount Rainier. Swinging with the Jacksons Saturday, January 25 at 8:00 PM The Bumper Jacksons’ early jazz and country repertoire paints America’s story from New Orleans to Appalachia. They perform the old traditional sounds of America, heart-wrenching and youthful, and always in the spirit of raw adventure. Admission includes concert along with a swing dance lesson. Community Wellness Fair Sunday, January 26, 1:00 to 5:00 PM In an effort to promote good health Joe’s Movement

Emporium is please to invite the public to its Annual Community Wellness Fair, featuring mini massages, acupuncture, MELT Yoga, Alexander technique, and the Feldenkrais Method. Cheeky Monkey Sideshow Saturday, February 1 at 8:00 PM Ladies and Gentlemen, prepare to witness the most amazing show your eyes have ever beheld! Cheeky Monkey Sideshow is an award-winning troupe of professional, experienced performers specializing in astounding feats and amazing oddities: sword swallowing, fire eating, extreme physical stunts, contortion, magic, mentalism, escapes, human and animal anomalies, and so much more.


Page HR2

CALENDAR JANUARY/February 2014 Friday, January 17

Ageless Grace Exercise Class, 10 AM Magruder Park Recreation Center, 3911 Hamilton Street

Saturday, January 18

Volunteer Opportunity: Magruder Woods non-invasive invasive removal, 9 AM to 1 PM Magruder Park

Monday, January 20

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day – City administrative offices closed. No Yard Waste collection, City-wide.

Tuesday, January 21

Camp Magruder: Spring Break Camp Registration opens, 9 AM City Council Meeting, 8 PM - 10 PM

Friday, January 24

Ageless Grace Exercise Class, 10 AM Magruder Park Recreation Center, 3911 Hamilton Street

Tuesday, January 28

Planning Committee Meeting, 7:30 PM - 8:30 PM

Friday, January 31

Ageless Grace Exercise Class, 10 AM Magruder Park Recreation Center, 3911 Hamilton Street

The community is always welcome to attend City Council meetings in person, at 4310 Gallatin Street. City residents can also watch the meetings from home on Comcast (Channel 71) or Verizon (Channel 12), either live or on rebroadcast. The rebroadcast schedule is as follows: 7 AM, 1 PM, and 8 PM seven days a week, including weekends and holidays. We typically rebroadcast the most recent Council Meeting. Meetings can also be streamed live at Questions? Comments? Please talk to Jonathan Alexander, the City’s cable coordinator, at jalexander@hyattsville. org or 301/985-5028.

Monday, February 3


schedule a safety seat check, please contact Officer Christine Fekete at 301/985-5060 or via email to She’ll be happy to help parents install a new seat or improve the fit of your current equipment. Car Seat Safety Checks aren’t just for new parents, either. Consider calling when your child transitions from an infant to a toddler seat, or when you buy a new vehicle and transfer your seats from your old car. Checks are free of charge for any City of Hyattsville resident.

Join us for non-native invasive removals in Magruder Woods on the third Saturday of every month, yearround, from 9 AM to 1 PM. Work is led by Dr. Marc Imlay, Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning. Upcoming dates include Saturday, January 18 and Saturday, February 15. Please dress for the elements – long-sleeves, long pants and sturdy boots or shoes. Questions? Contact Colleen Aistis, caistis@ or 301/985-5057. Participation helps to satisfy State of Maryland Student Service Learning requirements.

UPDATES FROM WSSC – IS WORK PLANNED FOR YOUR STREET? Looking for updates on WSSC projects in your neighborhood? Use their maps to see the status of current projects. Maps can be accessed on WSSC’s website: http://gisweb.

CAR SEAT SAFETY CHECKS Got kids? Then you’ve got car seats! Maryland law requires all children under the age of eight to ride in an appropriate safety seat. But the seat alone is not enough - proper installation is the key to keeping our littlest passengers safe. Despite our best efforts, estimates suggest that as many as seven out of ten kids are not buckled in properly. The City of Hyattsville’s Police Department can help. To

City Council Meeting, 8 – 10 PM

Tuesday, February 4

Board of Supervisors of Elections Meeting, 4 - 5 PM

Friday, February 7

Ageless Grace Exercise Class Unless otherwise noted, all events take place at the City Municipal Building, 4310 Gallatin Street.

NIXLE The City is now using Nixle to send public safety alerts and information via both email and text message. This system replaces the SafeCity website previously in use. Many of our neighboring jurisdictions also use Nixle to send out information. Please note at Nixle won’t report on every incident – typically alerts are sent when the HCPD needs to alert the public to a potentially dangerous situation, or when we are asking for your help solving a crime. In other cases, Nixle messages relate to road closures, power outages, etc. If you have a account, there is no need to create a new one. Simply log in and add the City of Hyattsville to your wire. New to Nixle? Register at or enroll using the widget online at

FIND US ON FACEBOOK Are you on Facebook? You can now keep up with City events and happenings at When you see Vainglorious, the silver metal bird sculpture at Centennial Park, you’ll know you’re in the right place. He is kind enough to serve as the City’s wall photo.

Page 8

Hyattsville Life & Times | January 2014


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Development Corporation’s effort to support local musicians, is an evening of Funk, Soul, Electronic and Dance, featuring Inner Loop, Coup Sauvage & The Snips. $10. 7 to 10 p.m. Joe’s Movement Emporium, 3309 Bunker Hill Road, Mount Rainier. Visit www.gatewaycdc. org or contact csm.tom.liddle@

February 8

Gardeners: Do you know a hybrid from an heirloom? Find out at the Hyattsville Horticultural Society’s 5th Annual Hart Seed Sale, featuring non-GMO seeds in cutting-edge varieties as well as those with a long lineage. Members of the Hyattsville Horticultural Society and the Community Garden will be on hand to answer gardening questions. Free admission. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Hyattsville Municipal Building, 4310 Gallatin Street. 301.277.7129 or floribundav@ Publick Playhouse presents Raisin’ Cane: A Harlem Renaissance Odyssey starring Guy and the Avery Sharpe Trio. In a Black History Month tribute to the birth of jazz, the performers take a trip back to the glory days of Harlem and the music of Fats Waller, Jelly Roll Morton and Duke Ellington. $40 to $55. 8 p.m. 5445 Landover Road, Cheverly. 301.277.1710 or


Got a budding pilot in the house? The College Park Aviation Museum offers Afternoon Aviators, a weekly series of hands-on activities for ages 5 and up. Free with museum admission of $4 ($2 for children 18 and younger). Fridays, 2 to 4 p.m. 1985 Cpl. Frank Scott Drive, College Park. 301.864.6029.

A group bike ride starts every Sunday at 9 a.m. at Arrow Bicycles, 5108 Baltimore Avenue. This is a 32-mile, moderately paced ride that emphasizes group riding techniques. New group riders welcome. The route can be found by searching ‘arrow hyattsville’ at 301.531.9250. Local couple Milton and Linda McGehee have distributed thousands of care packages to wounded soldiers over the years and still deliver regularly to the local veteran’s hospital. They welcome donations of new items,including disposable cameras, toiletries, puzzle books, playing cards, DVDs, and, especially, new towels and washcloths. Call 301.559.0864 to donate or volunteer. Through March, naturalists will lead a guided hike around Lake Artemesia and the Luther Goldman Birding Trail on the first and third Thursdays of the month. Lake Artemesia, 8200 55th Avenue, Berwyn Heights. Free. 3 to 4:30 p.m. 301.627.7755. Rise + Rhyme kicks off the week for the 5-and-under set with storytelling, performances and more. Suggested donation, $5. Monday mornings from 9:30 to 11 a.m. Zinn Room, Busboys & Poets, 5331 Baltimore Avenue. 301.779.2787. Community Calendar is a select listing of events happening in and around Hyattsville from the 15th of the issue month to the 15th of the following month. To submit an item for consideration, please e-mail susie@ or mail to P.O. Box 132, Hyattsville, MD 20781. Deadline for February submissions is January 28.

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Empty nests in winter by Fred Seitz

One of the revelations winter brings is the display of animal homes aloft in the trees and elsewhere. Last winter, I reported on the seasonal show of bird and squirrel nests, but recent walks in Hyattsville reminded me of other local homebuilders and homesteaders. A walk with one of my dogs in the past couple weeks along the Northwest Branch Trail revealed a large paper nest in a tree. The nest’s survival through the wind, ice and rain was something of a surprise and the fact that I hadn’t seen it until the tree shed almost all of its leaves led me to admire the builders’ workmanship. The nest had been started in spring by a queen aerial yellow jacket or possibly a queen hornet; it was completed in late spring or early summer by some of her “worker” offspring while she continued her maternal function, laying more eggs. The workers bring small amounts of shredded wood or paper and mix it with saliva and other bodily chemicals to form individual cells. When the cells are attached together, the structure is so strong it can house thousands of the queen’s offspring. At this time of year, the queen and her offspring have departed the nest and will not reuse it next spring. The nest has probably been adopted as a temporary residence by earwigs or other insects looking for “any port in the storms.” The yellow jacket often builds nests of wood or paper underground. Some species will also build their nests in trees or under the eaves of buildings. Hornets, which are also wasps and close kin to yellow jackets, often build their nests in trees, but occasionally will construct the nest in a

FRED SEITZ Aerial yellow jacket or hornet nest along the Northwest Branch.

rotting log on the ground. These cousins are known for their stings. But they are actually beneficial, preying on many garden and agricultural pests. While both visit picnics and are frequent consumers of soda or other sweetened drinks, they also visit plants for nectar in spring and summer. They do not, however, store honey in their nests. Walking back from the Northwest Branch, I noticed a second set of “nests” on the sides of several human residences in the area. The familiar mud daubers are another wasp, but are solitary, rather than living in large colonies like their yellow jacket and hornet cousins. They frequently build their nests under the eaves

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of houses. In other areas, they may build their nests on caves, bridges or rock outcrops. While the local mud daubers build the longer tube-like nests from mud, other types build clusters of smaller urn-shaped nests which may be clumped together. Some mud daubers will appropriate the abandoned nest of other mud daubers. Those who build their nests will carry small globs of mud in their mandibles for construction. The daubers will lay a single egg in each tube or chamber, and then stock it with spiders (including black widows and crab spiders) to serve as food for newly hatched offspring. Some mother daubers will guard the nest from potential predators (such as different types of wasps). Unlike their hornet or yellow jacket kin, the daubers may return in the spring and reuse their nest or build new nests in the same location. While capable of stinging, mud daubers are generally less aggressive than their yellow jacket and hornet cousins. Despite this perceived lower level of aggression, mud daubers have been blamed for at least two airplane crashes. In both cases, the wasps built their muddy nests in the tubes of the planes airspeed indicators which are in tubes on the exterior of the aircraft and caused faulty airspeed readings.

Hyattsville Life & Times | January 2014

Page 9

New schools, new programs likely for 2014 school year by Rosanna Landis Weaver

There are formalities to be resolved and approvals to be granted, but it appears that Hyattsville’s new — as yet unnamed — elementary school may be the first in the county with an emphasis on arts education. The Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) budget, introduced by school system CEO Kevin Maxwell in December, included funding for “a new arts program at the Hyattsville Area Elementary School.” The creative and performing arts theme of the school, opening this fall in West Hyattsville, was a primary focus of the PGCPS forum on “Boundary, Grade & Program Improvements” held at Nicholas Orem Middle School on December 17. While Director of Public Accounting and School Boundaries Johndel Jones-Brown made it clear that this and other changes are proposed, not yet adopted or approved, it appears likely that the school will offer unique opportunities to area students. Some area children could have the opportunity for an emphasis on performing arts to run through graduation. Hyattsville Middle School is currently an

arts magnet school and Northwestern High School began its official Visual and Performing Arts Program in August. Participants at the meeting applauded the performing arts focus, with several noting the benefits in academic performance that can be associated with such an emphasis. More controversial are likely to be the as-yetundecided boundaries. A committee of representatives from several adjacent schools has met with county officials to discuss what the “potential walk zone” might be. Several parents at the meeting raised questions about transportation safety, as some children who live quite close to the school might be required to cross East-West Highway’s six lanes of traffic if buses are not provided for them. Also raised was the more general issue of how planned development is considered when assessing boundary changes. Maxwell, who did not attend the meeting, will issue recommendations with a specific proposal on boundaries on January 17. There will be a public hearing on February 4 and a schoolboard vote on February 13.


Sixth Graders Moving to middle schools

At the meeting officials announced plans to continue a transition of adding sixth graders to middle schools. Last year the sixth grade from Hyattsville elementary joined Hyattsville Middle School. In 2014, the proposal calls for sixth graders from Thomas Stone and Chillum elementary schools to join them. Officials reported that incorporating sixth graders into middle school allows for expanded electives, content specialization and advanced mathematics. Studies suggest positive performance differences for students who spend two rather than three years in middle schools. Jones also noted the pragmatic reasons for the change, including the fact that for the short term such a change is “the only way we can offer any relief ” to severe overcrowding at elementary schools such as Stone.

opening three Spanish immersion programs in the county, and have made a preliminary decision that Cesar Chavez elementary, located at 6609 Riggs Road, will be one of the potential sites. Unlike a theme school, such as the proposed arts school, which serves only its neighborhood, admission to specialty programs are generally driven by lottery.

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Hyattsville Life & Times | January 2014



Preservation options for the WSSC building by Gray OʼDwyer

Historic preservation has been a divisive issue since it became a national movement in the mid20th century. Passionate defenders of preservation cite events such as the 1963 tear-down of New York’s historic Penn Station to build Madison Square Gardens as an example of shortsighted victories of graft over culture. Opponents contend that historic preservation prevents progress and puts a stranglehold on development that brings often much-needed economic benefit to communities. The future of the WSSC building is one of the trickiest types of preservation questions. Built in stages between 1939 and 1964, the sprawling former headquarters of the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission occupies more than seven acres on both sides of Hamilton Street near Magruder Park. Since a “For Sale” sign was posted out front in early January, the debate has only grown hotter. What to do with a massive commercial building on a massive lot, right in the heart of a residential community and adjoining a park? Obviously a deteriorating, vacant building is not beneficial to the community, the owners, or the local govern-

ment, but that is the only point on which all three agree. Douglas Development has decided that the building they purchased in 2005 “does not suit the company’s current strategy at this time” and that all parties might be better served if someone else took on the project. Representatives of Douglas assert that the building is in better condition after extensive asbestos remediation and will be more attractive to a potential buyer. Some Hyattsville residents are frustrated at the inaction, citing vandalism, theft, loitering vagrants, and other criminal activity that has spilled over into the neighborhood and adjacent park. Now that the building is on the market again, all previous battles over the future of the WSSC building are brought firmly back to square one. What to do with it? Out of all the options presented by residents, local officials, historic preservationists and developers with industry insight into possible uses, there are three themes which match up neatly with three major trends in historic preservation today: Preservation: Keep the entire building as it exists, and improve the gutted interior for a use compatible with the building in its current form, such as a school, community center, or office

building. The parking lot remains a parking lot, and life goes on as before minus the vandals and vagrants. Rehabilitation: A slightly more aggressive approach that would maintain at least the 1939 section in the middle, and include possible changes to the building to accommodate an adaptive re-use of the building that benefits both the community and business interests. Possibilities include apartments, condos, senior housing, a “pod-style” small business incubator, or retail. Regeneration: The most radical approach, building on the existing idea of a “period of significance.” A period of significance is usually defined as the period of time in which a district or a building achieved its essential character, and the current period of significance for historic Hyattsville is 1860 to 1954. This period includes the WSSC building, but it is well-known that WSSC tore down existing houses for the building and the site is still zoned for single-family residential (R-55). Many argue that Hyattsville’s period of significance should be more narrow, and not include mid-20th century “intrusions” into a late 19th-century suburban town. Regeneration might involve par-

ROSANNA LANDIS WEAVER Hyattsvilleʼs Kevin Oakley is joined by his mother, Nancy Oakley, who came from Silver Spring to have family heirlooms evaluated by Tom Weschler at the Hyattsville Preservation Associationʼs “Jewels or Junk” event on January 11. Despite the rainy weather, over 20 residents came to have Weschler, who is an appraiser at Weschlerʼs auction house, examine items at the Antiques Roadshow-style event. Like the Oakleys, most of the attendees left with the knowledge that the items were jewels for the aesthetic pleasure they gave and the memories associated with them, rather than the value they would have at an auction. Still, the Oakleys were pleased they had come to have their curiosity satisfied; as Kevin noted, “The value is in the information.”

tial (retaining the 1939 section only) or total demolition of the existing building to return the site to its historically residential character. Between residents, local government, and business interests, there are a lot of opinions and a lot of very valid concerns. Hopefully, a reasoned, productive decision can be reached that takes into account the needs of the

community now, and in the future. Gray O’Dwyer is a professional architectural historian and history enthusiast. A native of Richmond, Virginia, she has recently moved to West Hyattsville and is enjoying getting to know her new ’hood. Bricks & Mortar is a new column on architecture and development in the historic city of Hyattsville.

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Hyattsville Life & Times | January 2014


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began, an estimated 10 million items have gone to more than 17,000 law enforcement agencies in every U.S. state and territory. Among them are the cities of Cheverly, Laurel and Greenbelt. Now, Holland wants to add Hyattsville to the list — and a used Humvee to the fleet. The all-wheel drive vehicles are designed to transport soldiers through harsh weather and terrain. In Hyattsville, Holland told the council on January 6, a Humvee could be used in “largescale snow events, rain or flood events, rough-terrain or off-road response to emergencies.” The chief emphasized that Humvees “are not and will not be designated for everyday, routine patrols. I can’t stress that enough. This is not a vehicle that would be patrolling the streets of Hyattsville on a daily basis.” It would also be on display at public events such as National Night Out and Truck Touch. “They’re generally very popular at these events,” Holland said. But the idea was not so popular with some councilmembers. “I can’t support the department acquiring a military vehicle,” said Tim Hunt (Ward 3). “It’s wrong on so many levels for a municipality of this size, in this area. It puts up barriers and sends the wrong message. ... [And] when you put military equipment on the street as part of a police force, it can escalate situations.” Patrick Paschall (Ward 3) agreed, saying that the message conveyed would be “po-

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lice state.” Holland attempted to reassure the councilmembers, saying, “This is not a ballistic-rated vehicle or an armored personnel carrier. It’s simply a Humvee transport vehicle.” Paschall also pointed out that the vehicle is “incredibly environmentally unfriendly.” “I don’t think that because it’s free is a good enough reason to take it,” he concluded. While Hyattsville would not be charged for the Humvee, valued at $60,000, the city would pay any transportation costs. And since the vehicle would arrive in its original camouflage condition, it would need a paint job. Red-and-blue emergency lights would need to be installed. The retail cost of these changes would run an estimated $1,900 to $2,500, said Holland, but added that the department is investigat-

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ing getting those services donated. Another cost would be filling it up. Humvees use diesel fuel, and lots of it. “Obviously, the miles per gallon is not great,” said Holland, adding that because of its “limited deployment,” the total fuel consumption would be low. Shani Warner (Ward 2) said that although her first reaction was negative, “I’m actually still thinking through this. Given Hyattsville’s proximity to the nation’s capital, probably one of the premier terrorist targets, it’s at least possible for me to imagine a situation in which this would be not just be a promotional device, but something that could be used.”

She later added that the strongest argument for acquiring the vehicle was its potential snow-removal capability. Others were intrigued by this as well, especially after Assistant City Administrator Jim Chandler said that Hyattsville has “a fairly limited fleet” of trucks that can plow snow. “The fact that we get a ... very inexpensive four-wheel drive solution to inclement weather conditions and transportation needs is a very compelling argument for me,” said Clay Williams (Ward 5). “Is [the argument against it] just solely that we fear what having a Humvee says about our community? If that’s the concern, I don’t agree with that holding up the acquisition of this vehicle. If there’s something else that clearly speaks against acquiring it to fulfill those needs, I would like to hear it. I haven’t heard it yet.”

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Hyattsville Life & Times | January 2014

A message from Mayor Marc Tartaro ADVERTISEMENT

There has been recent and initial discussion on the HOPE listserve and in City Council about the future use of the former WSSC building (across from Magruder Park). I would like to add my thoughts to the discussion in my role as Mayor and as an architect. The development of the former WSSC building presents an opportunity for the City of Hyattsville to demonstrate innovation and leadership in Community Development, City Government and Sustainability by working with the private sector. Background The former WSSC building contains approximately 100,000 square feet of interior space as well as adjacent onsite parking and additional parking across the street adjacent to Magruder Park. In contrast, the current City Building is approximately 33,000 square feet of which 6,000 square feet are used for interior parking and storage. The City leases the parking lot across the street for City vehicles. Vision We can decide that the building should become a multiuse City facility where the lower two floors facing Magruder Park (approximately 40-50,000 square feet) could have • The City Administrative offices including the Police Department • Community Center with classroom/meeting rooms, studios and optional “black box” performance space • City government visitor parking in front of the building with overflow across the street And the upper two floors facing Hamilton Street (approximately 40-50,000 square feet) could have • Residential apartments to generate funding for the initial development of the City Building project and for future maintenance. Target population options could include • Seniors • Moderate Income • Artist or other • Market Rate • Resident parking adjacent to building on east side Development/Funding Approaches We can chose from several options to finance our vision. We could approach the current WSSC building owner to explore having them develop (build out) the building to agreed-upon specifications for City administrative offices and residential units. We could also decide to • Bond finance total cost of project; • Combine bond financing with transfer of one or more City real estate assets (4310 Gallatin Street, 4318 Gallatin Street, 3505 Hamilton Street); or • Leaseback contract with transfer of ownership at end of lease Additional Project Opportunities We would have several opportunities to include sustainable development principles such as • Photovoltaic Array on the roof to generate electricity to reduce City government utility costs and carbon footprint/usage. • Geothermal Field with wells located underneath the parking lot adjacent to Magruder Park to generate cooling and heating for City administrative offices to reduce City operation utility costs and carbon footprint/usage. • Explore including residential apartments cooling and heating loads • Stormwater management improvements for Magruder Park parking lot including reduction of impermeable surface, and bio-swales, trees and other plantings • Create a new entrance into Magruder Park from the Magruder Park Parking Lot The old WSSC building could become an important community asset and a symbol of our commitment to sustainability. Let your Council Member know if you support further exploration of these ideas. Marc Tartaro Mayor

susie currie After nearly a decade of owning the former WSSC headquarters, Douglas Development is marketing the property to prospective buyers.


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Mid-Century Modern north wing facing Hamilton Street. As part of the Hyattsville Historic District, it would qualify to receive historic tax credits toward rehabilitation. Though this can be lucrative, the time it takes to secure investors makes it highly unlikely that any tax-credit project — historic preservation, low-income, senior housing — would be able to quickly gather the capital or loan security. According to state tax records, Douglas Development paid $1.1 million; last July’s property assessment put the value at $600,000. Most observers agree that that does not represent the market value, however, and expect it to sell for much more than that. “The price will be what the market can bear,” said Ideal Realty broker Allen Manesh, who is handling the transaction. “And the successful bid will be the bid that can close most quickly.” The property brochure seems geared towards a bigger developer with visions of multi-family dwellings, which tend to be more profitable than single-family homes. A new owner would be under no obligation to preserve the historic shell and may petition for demolition permits and a zoning change from R-55, detached single-family housing — which is what was on the site before 1939. Because WSSC is considered a government entity, it is not bound by zoning requirements. But unless the next owner is in

the same category, the development will have to either abide by R-55 conditions or seek rezoning. The brochure says that “there is an opportunity to change the zoning” to allow high-density residential. It also shows conceptual plans for 99 condos where the building stands now, and 21 single-family detached homes across the street on the current parking lot. But the parking lot is in the floodplain, and increasingly strict county regulations (not to mention the current open-space zoning) would make it all but impossible to build there. In any case, said Acting City Administrator Jim Chandler, the rezoning question hasn’t come up yet. When Councilmember Patrick Paschall (Ward 3) asked about the status of the sale during the January 6 council meeting, Chandler said that no developer has submitted a “tangible” plan to the city. “[New owners] may request rezoning, or they may not,” he said. “You don’t know until someone puts a contract on it.” Manesh met with Chandler and then-City Administrator Jerry Schiro in September, letting them know that he was handling the sale for Douglas and that he would advise potential buyers to contact the city. “The city has not been part of any negotiations We got a call from one developer a month ago, and have heard nothing since,” said Chandler, who is also the city’s director of community and economic development, in an in-

terview. Sources confirmed later that it was a national company whose website features a variety of low- and moderate-income multifamily housing. “If we get delivered to us a real proposal,” said Chandler, “the first thing we would do is send it to the Planning Committee, and the developer would have opportunity to present to them.” That doesn’t mean that no one is considering the possibilities, though, especially among those who remember the last time it was for sale. Many neighbors have been airing their views on local listservs, around town and to their council representatives. Mayor Marc Tartaro took out an 11th-hour ad in this issue to explain his vision, which encompasses not only the WSSC building but also some of the other properties the city owns. “There is lots of speculation floating around,” said Chandler, “[but] it probably makes more sense to revisit this question after we review the facilities assessment.” The city owns five buildings, and the question of what to do with them has surfaced briefly at recent council meetings and will come up during the budget process. Councilmember Shani Warner (Ward 2) says the building “is probably the biggest issue facing the neighbors,” and has discussed it with several of them. “I’m eager to see something else take its place. Generally speaking, it’s hard to imagine anything worse than the status quo on this property.”

Hyattsville Life & Times | January 2014

art works

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17. At that well-attended meeting, the Commission voted unanimously to classify the former Marche Florist building as a historic site. That status comes with conditions that might prove unworkable for the combination art school/gourmet pizzeria that many residents want to see open there. Art Works founder and Executive Director Barbara Johnson initially described herself as “devastated.” However, the new statement concludes on a much more positive note: “We are confident that Art Works and Pizzeria Paradiso will make their homes in Hyattsville in 2014 with great thanks to our community of support.” Supporters of removing 4800 Rhode Island Avenue from the historic inventory turned out in force for the December hearing, held in Upper Marlboro. Many shared their hopes for positive economic and community impact as a result of the partnership Art Works has planned with Pizzeria Paradiso to revitalize the property. Ann and Jonathan Barrett, owners of the Marche House next door, were among the more than 20 residents who spoke in favor of that plan for the site. Ann, a local realtor and Hyattsville Preservation Association board member, succinctly pointed out that “context was key” in

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considering the status and future of the building, which has been vacant for seven years. Time and again during the evening’s testimony, supporters prefaced their remarks by saying they generally favored historic preservation. However, most felt that this particular building was too prosaic for such a designation, and not in keeping with the widespread community support to bring life and business to that end of Baltimore Avenue. But the issue before the Board centered simply on whether the building met the criteria of an historic resource. And, more vitally for Art Works, whether or not the former Marche Florist building could be removed from the inventory of historic buildings, where it was named as a county resource in 2010. Had the Commission agreed with the Art Works argument that the property didn’t meet the historic criteria, a building permit would have been granted. Despite the impassioned comments, the Board adopted the staff recommendation, put forth in a lengthy analysis on December 10, to formally move the building from simply being in the historical inventory to being a documented Prince George’s County historical site. In this instance, said Hyattsville Community Development Corporation Executive Director Stuart Eisenberg, “ ‘Historic preservation’ is a technical term ... that means something very different

to the people on the Historic Preservation Commission than what the neighbors understand it to mean in the vernacular.” The decision was initially seen as a crushing blow for many of the meeting attendees. In addition to the meetings later this month, Art Works stated, “We have, because the window for doing so is very short, also filed an appeal of the December 17th ruling that the property is an historic site with the District Council” (the name for the County Council when it decides zoning questions). Prior to the hearing, supporters sent dozens of letters to commis-

sioners and a MoveOn petition garnered over 500 signatures. Many people who spoke noted the successful reuse and adaptation of other older properties in town, including the Lustine Center and Franklins. But neither had been designated a Prince George’s County historical site, noted Eisenberg. Franklins was not even part of the Hyattsville Historic District until 2005, he said, and the Lustine property had no designation at all. As a nonprofit, Art Works is eager to avoid additional costs that the historic designation could bring to the project. During the hearing, Johnson, who is also a

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principal of the LLC that purchased the building last year, expressed fears that any alterations, such as the planned enlargement of a stairwell to the second floor, would at a minimum confront difficult hurdles under regulations facing historic buildings. Her additional concern was that the momentum and partnership with Pizzeria Paradiso, a crucial partner driving the success of the venture, would be jeopardized if the dual use were not allowed under its new status. “We’re incredibly buoyed by our community’s passion for this project,” says Johnson. “We are committed to [its] realization.”

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Hyattsville Life & Times | January 2014

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January 2014 Hyattsville Life & Times  

Douglas Development offers WSSC Building for sale; Hyattsville weighs Humvee acquisition; ArtWorks/Pizza Paradiso project to move forward; p...

January 2014 Hyattsville Life & Times  

Douglas Development offers WSSC Building for sale; Hyattsville weighs Humvee acquisition; ArtWorks/Pizza Paradiso project to move forward; p...