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Feeling the pinch Some Route 1 businesses under the gun by Paula Minaert


he economic upheaval currently roiling the country is touching businesses on Baltimore Avenue, according to a recent survey conducted by the HL&T. “This has been the slowest week so far,” said Godfrey de la Rosa, owner of Under the Coconut Tree Caribbean Bakery and Café, in a conversation shortly before Christmas. “The guest count hasn’t dropped much — the number of people — but the check average has.” The café has been open for seven months. De la Rosa had been looking to open in a new location since 2002, and saw this spot, he said. His brotherin-law, Frank Lovelace, was already across the street in his barber shop, Sooper Cuts. And de la Rosa knew about the development already happening in Hyattsville. But now, he said, “It’s a struggle. It’s definitely partly from the economy.” Lovelace agreed. He pointed to the man whose hair he was cutting one recent afternoon and said, “This is my third customer today.” Paul Richards, partner in Artists on the Avenue, has a similar story. “We opened Sept. 28 and the stock market crashed Oct. 6. We had an abysmal first month, though November and December have been a little better.” The news seems to be grim

PINCH continued on page 8

Vol. 6 No. 1

Hyattsville’s Community Newspaper

Looking back, forward n



Developer EYA has stocked its storefronts on Baltimore Avenue with stores including the BookNook Bookstore, Artists on the Avenue and Design Studio. Last year, several shops opened their doors in Hyattsville's arts district, including Arrow Bicycle, Shagga Coffee and Rancho Grande restaurant.


he HL&T asked Mayor William Gardiner about the year behind and the year ahead. Here’s what he had to say: HLT: Generally speaking, what are some things that you would highlight for the coming year? What would you like to get done? And, in that vein, what are 2008’s highlights? Lowlights?

2008 highlights in Hyattsville New businesses and development n Many new stores and restaurants opened along Baltimore Avenue and East West Highway / University Town Center n Renaissance Square, the city’s first arts district anchor project, consisting of 44 units of artist housing, was completed

Mosaic at Metro, the residential phase of the mixed-use development at the Prince George’s Plaza Metro [station] was completed Completion of the stabilization and re-roofing of 4318 Gallatin Street Ratified contract to purchase the BB&T building

New legislation n Updated the charter and code regarding committees, ethics, yards and mobile vending n Adopted new council and committee policies n Adopted a city piggyback on the state homeowners’ tax credit program n Adopted a bike and pedestrian master plan for the city (developed by the bike and pedestrian safety committee) Administration and city services Created new positions—assistant city administrator, communications manager, police officers and police staff n Completed compensation study and adjusted salary tables for sworn and civilian staff n Received significant grant funding from the federal, state, and local n

LOOKING BACK continued on page 7

‘Culinary Epicureanism’ under the coconut tree A review by a neighbor by Daniel Coogan

Hyattsville Life & Times PO Box 132 Hyattsville, MD 20781


very Friday Godfrey de la Rosa, pastry chef at Under the Coconut Tree, drives to a seafood market in Jessup to pick up fresh mako shark for the Saturday Special, the Shark and Bake sandwich, a delicacy on the beaches of Trinidad and Tobago. After marinating the shark all day Friday, he prepares it for Saturday’s lunch on a sandwich roll with an assortment of condiments. Garnishing the mako — which tastes similar to tuna — with let-

COCONUT TREE continued on page 9 Under the Coconut Tree restaurant, on Baltimore Avenue, offers indoor and outdoor dining with a Carribbean flair.

Life of Pie See p.10

Kill the winter chill with these tips. See p.5

PRSRT STD U.S. POSTAGE PAID Permit # 43 Easton, MD 21601

City Council votes to buy BB&T buidling. See p.4

January 2009

Hyattsville, misc. A few questions for Gardiner by Sarah Nemeth


ver the past several years, Hyattsville has evolved into a Mecca of real estate development and retail opportunity. Shops and restaurants have popped up along Baltimore Avenue and at University Town Center. Large tracts of land — including University Hills and the Mall at Prince George’s — have been added to the city’s perimeter, boosting residential and commercial tax bases while also expanding the responsibility of infrastructure duties like trash pickup and police services. Still, some of the plans set in motion for development and progress have stalled due to Gardiner a variety of factors. EYA’s East Village property, which is to be developed into a mixeduse project including the restaurant Busboys & Poets, remains nothing more than a fenced-in hill of wild grass and weeds. While the Renaissance Square HIP artists’ apartment building on Jefferson Street has been completed, plans for a YMCA facility at the location are AWOL. Homes remain empty at both EYA’s West Village and at University Town Center. Will the city move forward with its plans? The HL&T spoke with Mayor William Gardiner for his take on the city’s future. “The YMCA project has been very difficult to put together, and the economic situation makes it even more challenging. The Y is interested in developing a full-service facility here, but they have not figured out the financing — the building alone would likely cost between $10 and $14 mil-

GARDINER continued on page 7

Included: The January 14, 2009 Issue of The Hyattsville Reporter—See Center Section

Hyattsville Life&Times | January 2009

Page 2

Don’t just do something–sit there

FromTheHills You will be missed, Mr. Kraft

Observations, tips and ideas to help you nourish a tranquil life by Cassie Johnson

by Tim Hunt

“Over the years, I had several opportunities to bid on other routes but it usually came back to the same question: Would I rather eat lunch watching the seasons change in the park or watch the traffic lights change on U.S. [Route] 1 or Kenilworth Avenue? I think that I made the right move.” University Hills residents will miss the dedication and service provided to them over the last 12 years and wish Bob well in retirement.


niversity Hills residents celebrated the retirement of their mailman in a ceremony during the University Hills Area Civic Association meeting held at St. Mark’s Church on Oct. 22. Bob Kraft retired after 35 years working with the post office, 12 of which were as the mail carrier for University Hills. Kraft walked the entire neighborhood in all kinds of weather each day at work and provided residents with a level of service that will be difficult to replicate. In appreciation, the civic association gave him a plaque and a gift certificate from REI. UHACA Secretary Tom Eichman presented the gift to Kraft in a brown paper bag to symbolize Kraft’s routine of having his lunch


A community newspaper chronicling the life and times of Hyattsville

Mailing address: PO Box 132, Hyattsville, MD 20781 Hyattsville Life & Times is published monthly by Hyattsville Community Newspaper, Inc., a 501c(3) nonprofit corporation. Interested reporters should send their e-mail addresses to the editor to be reminded of deadlines and receive internal news. Articles and news submitted may be edited. The deadline is the last week of the month for the following month’s issue. Letters to the editor and opinions are encouraged. For all e-mail correspondence with HL&T: news, features, tips, advertising and business write to To submit articles, letters to the editor, etc. , e-mail For inquiries re advertising rates or to submit ad copy please email to Sarah Nemeth: Executive Editor 240.354.4832 Production: Electronic Ink Writers & Contribtors: Colleen Aistis John Aquilino Keith Blackburn Steve Clements Michael Martucci Hugh Turley Board of Directors: Christopher Currie Matthew McKnight Tim Hunt Bert Kapinus Sarah Nemeth 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 7,500. HL&T is a member of the National Newspaper Association.

Elsewhere and otherwise

at the Duck Pond each day. In a letter printed in the October UHACA newsletter, Kraft thanked residents for their kindness and friendships over the years. “You all should be proud of your neighborhood and its welcoming feel, speaking as someone who’s delivered mail in almost every zip code from Landover to old Hyattsville and everywhere in between,” Kraft stated. Kraft also wrote the officers of the civic association a letter of thanks. “It was great to see everyone again last night, it reminded me that I missed the neighborhood but not the job,” he wrote. “I was also again reminded of and humbled by the generosity of the people who are University Hills. My plaque holds more sentiment than any award that the post office could ever give and the ‘brown bag’ really hit the mark, too.

In other neighborhood news, Lee Henry, Hyattsville’s director of public works, was at the Oct. 22 meeting to answer questions from residents and to discuss plans for neighborhood street improvements and repaving. A construction plan will be developed by the DPW for work to begin in 2010. Until then, measures will be taken to maintain the roadways as needed. Perhaps the most pressing issue is the poor condition of Wells Parkway, one of the main arteries of the neighborhood. “This is not a pothole problem,” Henry said. “This is the alligator effect of water deteriorating Wells Parkway.” Alligator cracking is caused by the degradation of the road’s subbase. Until that issue can be properly addressed during construction year 2010, the DPW will resurface Wells Parkway in order to hold the road together.


have a favorite painting in our study. It’s a watercolor of a solitary figure in a rowboat who has nodded off during a perfectly tranquil day on the water. A fishing pole is poised for the catch, but you can just imagine that a fish on the line would be blissfully unattended at this restful moment. Just looking at the painting eases me into pause mode. It’s my “Don’t just do something – sit there” reminder. So when was the last time you reminded yourself to sit there? I know it can be hard to do when your day is chock full of busy. But even the most zealous workaholics can enjoy quiet space. Here are a few suggestions of ways to leave the mind clutter and visit the soul — no matter your schedule.

Greet the morning n Have a cup of tea, appropriately called “liquid meditation” because of its calming properties; n Meditate or quietly enjoy the visual beauty of the morning (I had a friend who hung crystals from an east window to watch the sun filter through them); n Begin with prayer or readings that lift your spirit; n Listen to soothing music. “Music is the language of the spirit. It opens the secret of

life, bringing peace…” (Kahlil Gibran). Enough said. Whatever your choice, the key is to start fresh from fertile ground. Remember, you’re cultivating the beginning of your day. Allow it to open up from a rich inner source that will carry you through.

Make your way during the day n “Ah, Reiki!” (To quote a friend). This healing practice and relaxation technique is one of the most tranquil ways to spend an hour. n Have affirmation cards handy for quick spirit restoration. Put a deck in your office or carry some for the day. Read them when you need them. Louise Hay, Wayne Dyer and Doreen Virtue are among the most popular authors, and their cards are like bouquets for eyes and soul. n Take a breather — literally. Stop everything and take some deep breaths. Simple but effective, this is a great way to release tension and regain calm. These practices — meditation, Reiki treatments, breathers or any other peaceful centering approach — are ways to tend to your inner garden. They can raise your spirits and re-inspire your days. And they can be moments of tranquility in the midst of anything but tranquil lives. Cassie Johnson is a Reiki master/ teacher. Contact her at

Commentary and opinion on history & politics

Hugh’sNews I saw it on TV by Hugh Turley


hen you ask some people how they know what they think they know, they might well respond, “I saw it on TV.” The technology came well after his time, but Abraham Lincoln summed up the influence of television on public opinion in these words: “In this and like communities, public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it nothing can succeed. Consequently, he who moulds public sentiment goes deeper than he who enacts statutes or pronounces decisions."

The television program “NCIS” is a fictional drama about special agents conducting criminal investigations for the Navy. By blending current events into the scripts the program seems to pursue the same goals as our nation. On a recent program a naval officer’s wife murdered her husband. The investigators discovered that the woman, who had trained in terrorist camps in Afghanistan, was actually a member of al-Qaida who slipped into the U.S. pretending to be an American from Kansas. She cleverly met and married her victim, an Arabic linguist assigned to the Middle East. The show is fiction

but the message about al-Qaida was deliberate. If one prefers something more highbrow, “Frontline” on PBS features images of news events with a scholarly-sounding narrator. Viewers may be educated about terrorist threats by al-Qaida and the Taliban, and a recent program made a case for Pakistan being our next military target. Another scripted TV show is the presidential press conference, in which a roomful of journalists raise their hands pretending they might be called.The pretense of the show is media oversight in Washington, D.C. Once, President George W. Bush

goofed while going down his list of journalists, making it obvious that he was actually calling on them in prearranged order. Looking down at his lectern instead of the audience, when he came to “King, John King,” the President awkwardly added that it was “scripted.” This was followed by nervous laughter from the journalists. A few days later, under the headline “The Magnificent George and His Trained Reporters,” the Post reported on the press conference. “Who says viewers have no appetite for scripted programming?”

HUGH'S NEWS continued on page 3

Hyattsville Life&Times | January 2009

Page 3

MissFloribunda Dear Miss Floribunda,  I am torn between ecology and esthetics. Every December I break down and buy a fir from a Christmas tree lot instead of getting an artificial tree. I have considered buying a potted tree to plant outside later but I really don't want a forest in my yard. I'm not sure the municipality would permit it anyway. I also buy real poinsettias and cacti and try to induce them to bloom later, but without success. I have a room where they grow along with other potted plants but eventually that's going to fill up because I buy new ones in bloom each year. Can you or any of your "relatives" in HHS suggest some solution to this problem?    –Live Plant Lover on Livingston Street   Dear Live Plant Lover,   First, let me reassure you that buying an artificial tree from some coal-burning factory in a country that probably employs children is not necessarily more responsible than buying a live tree. The thing is to buy one grown locally rather than transported all the way from Colorado. You can go to the tree farm yourself and choose one, and it makes for a great family outing. Also, some of us in the horticultural society cut up our Christmas tree after Christmas and use it to mulch acidloving plants such as azaleas, camellias and rhododendrons. Others use

HUGH'S NEWS continued from page 2

the article stated. “A whopping 56 million of them watched President Bush’s primetime show last week in which the president exchanged glib, well-rehearsed lines with a select cast of press corps members.� Among those trained reporters then was NBC White House correspondent David Gregory. Gregory has been promoted from a hand-waving actor to host of another show, “Meet the Press.� Could the dialog on “Meet the Press� be scripted too? At his first press conference, President-elect Obama sounded as awkward as Bush reading from his list of reporters to call on. “Let’s see, how about Karen,� said the Presidentelect; then, “Let’s see, where’s John McCormick?� Obviously Obama, like Bush, was looking at his list and not at the journalists’ raised hands. Having the questions in advance makes a press conference unproblematic. When fiction and reality are blended to shape public opinion, a good question to ask is,“How do we know what we think we know?�

the branches to shield tender plants. A u n t Sioux stands her tree, denuded of ornaments, in a secluded spot in her yard and decorates it with bird food. Pine cones spread with peanut butter and sprinkled with bird seed, garlands of apple and/or citrus slices, ropes of popcorn, and her homemade suet cakes are what Aunt Sioux prefers. The cakes are made of bacon drippings that are poured into muffin tins. Bird seed is added and when the fat congeals the cakes are placed in net bags and hung on the tree. The plastic tinsel is taken by the birds and added to their nests—it makes wonderful insulation. On to poinsettias and Christmas cacti. Aunt Sioux has had luck getting poinsettias to color again by keeping them in the basement.  However, she said they "rebloom" in the spring, not December. Uncle Ivan Grozni’s Christmas

cactus reblooms every December, “because it knows its job and it does it,� he said. “When your cactus plant understands that it can be dumped in the compost pile and replaced if it does not put on a good performance you don't have to do much to make it stand out." However, I suggest consideration of these plants' native habitat. Both the poinsettia and cacti are New World desert plants. My Mexican sister-in-law Espinita will write next month's column and explain  what we need to do to approximate the winter conditions of that habitat. In the meantime, readers are invited to come to the next meeting of the Hyattsville Horticultural Society on Jan. 17 at city hall, 4310 Gallatin Street. Miss Floribunda is the collected wisdom of the Hyattsville Horticultural Society compiled and edited by Victoria Hille.


Hyattsville Life&Times | January 2009

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The Hyattsvilile City Council last month approved the purchase of the BB&T building, at Hamilton Street near the intersection of Queens Chapel Road. It will be used for municipal use an/or for lease to other entities.

Council votes to purchase bank building on Hamilton by Sarah Nemeth


he City of Hyattsville likely will own the BB&T building on Hamilton Street this time next year. The City Council last month voted 6-5 in favor of the purchase. Hyattsville will buy the building for $950,000, after recent attempts to secure a lower purchase price failed, Mayor Gardiner said at a Dec. 8 meeting. Council members who voted against the motion were Douglas Dudrow (Ward 1); Mark Matulef and William Tierney (Ward 2); Paula Perry (Ward 4); and Ruth Ann Frazier (Ward 5). Mayor William Gardiner, who is not required to formally weigh in on motions, voted in favor of the purchase. At a meeting earlier in December, Frazier said she did not think enough information had been given to the public about this purchase, which will likely include another $50,000, which was a price quoted to make minor repairs to the building. “For months and months and months we were not even allowed to breathe the initials B, B and T,� she said. “It was a big secret among the council. Now we’re going to [dump it] on the residents.� The purchase would be too much of a financial burden for residents, Frazier said. There has been no discussion of raising taxes because of the purchase, Tartaro, who supported the motion, said. Over the past two years Gardiner and City Administrator Elaine Murphy have met with BB&T officials

to discuss the future of the Hamilton Street bank branch space. The branch will soon be moving to a new location on East-West Highway. The 19,500-square-foot building sits on about one acre of property just east of the intersection of Hamilton Street and Queens Chapel Road. The city has entered into a contract with BB&T—which is building on a new location on East West Highway—to possibly purchase the

property, which is assessed at about $2 million. The property will likely be available in early 2009, and no later than fall 2009. The City of Hyattsville would retain use of a portion of the building for public meetings or other related activities, according to legislation. Most of the building would be leased to other entities, and the proceeds from those leases would be used to pay for the city’s

BANK BUILDING continued on page 11

Taking it to the bank by Sarah Nemeth


onsidering the national economic recession, is purchasing property a solid financial practice for local governments? The process, also called land banking, involves the acquisition by local governments of surplus properties with the intent to convert them to productive use or hold them for long-term strategic public purposes, according to a report by the Brookings Institution. The Hyattsville City Council last month voted to approve the purchase of the BB&T building on Hamilton Street near Queens Chapel Road, for a still undetermined use. The city will purchase the building for $950,000 and will finance it through a bond. Land banking was mentioned during discussion of the purchase. “By turning vacant and abandoned properties into community assets such as affordable housing, land banking fosters greater metropolitan prosperity and strengthens broader national economic well-being,� the Brookings report, dated Oct. 28, states. The amount of national foreclosures has led to vacancies and abandonment of property, which could lead to more than just an increased tax burden, according to the report. “In older industrial regions, chronic economic and population losses

TAKING IT TO THE BANK continued on page 11

Hyattsville Life&Times | January 2009

Page 5

[Staying warm this winter]

Kill the chill

Homo Habilis Construction LLC* Remodeling

by Melanie Lidman and Sarah Nemeth


ou do not have to hunker down inside when the temperatures plummet and icicles form on your eyelashes. The most important thing to remember when dressing for wintertime is – layer it on. “Because your body temperature rises as you move, you want to be able to take some things off if you get too warm,� said Brenda Butler, an aerobics instructor in Hyattsville at the Oasis Senior Center. “Make sure you are not overdressed, but not underdressed,� she said. It is important to strike a balance with your layers, wearing enough to keep you warm while allowing your body to sweat and breathe. Here are some tips on what to wear as you take on the great outdoors this winter:

Run for cover In cold weather, 30 to 40 percent of the body’s heat is lost through the head, according to Todd Miller, assistant professor in the Department of Exercise Science at George Washington University. A hat that covers the ears will go miles toward keeping the body warm. Ear warmers and ear muffs do not retain body heat. The hat should fit close to the head, and be made of wool or a synthetic material. “Not cotton, because cotton holds water and conducts heat away really fast,� Miller said. “It would make your head freezing cold.� According to the American Heart Association, walking is a great way to exercise in the winter. Here are some tips before you go out and brave the blustery weather: n Check the temperature and wind chill. The wind can remove warm air that surrounds your body. Any activity that increases motion also increases wind chill. If the temperature or wind chill is below zero, don’t go walking for exercise. n Drink plenty of fluids. It’s easy to become dehydrated in cold weather because you don’t realize you’re sweating or don’t want to drink cold water. n Avoid alcoholic beverages before and after you exercise.

The core The first layer on the torso must be some kind of synthetic moisture-wicking material that fits snugly to the body. This type of first layer is essential “because when you exercise, you sweat, and with the moisture off your body, your T-shirt won’t get ten times as heavy,� said Joy Butler (no relation to Brenda Butler), a representative from Under Armour. Under Armour, a Baltimore-based sports apparel manufacturer, has a line of sportswear featuring their

trademark moisture-wicking fabric, a “hydro filling� fabric that works with a pull-push mechanism to keep you dry and warm. “The fabric against your skin will pull any moisture away from your body, while the fabric on the outside of the garment pushes it away from your body,� she explained.

Sandwiched in between Opt for layers made of fleece, mesh or other synthetic materials such as polypropylene or polyester. Cotton gets wet and stays wet in cold weather. The middle layer is where you concentrate on keeping the core, or torso, of the body warm.Vests are a perfect addition to the winter exercise wardrobe because they keep the torso warm while allowing for the arms to move freely. Avoid thick goose-down vests, which inhibit movement and will most likely become too warm as you continue exercising. Fleece vests are ideal because they are tight but breathable.

Upper crust The outer layer should consist of a lightweight windand water-resistant jacket. Windbreakers are ideal because they allow plenty of room for movement while protecting from the elements.

The rest Don’t forget the fingers and toes! Be aware of frostbite and be able to recognize the signs. Athletes who feel numbness or tingling in their extremities, especially their fingers, toes or ears, should stop and warm up inside, Miller said. “It has to be really bad for you to see [frostbite],� he said. “Your skin gets grey and you’d be an idiot to keep going.� For fingers: Choose mittens over gloves, as mittens will keep the hands warmer. For toes: “If you’re going to be wearing shoes and socks all day, change your socks a few times,� said Butler. “You sweat, and sweat can build fungus.� Also, if exercising in the snow, make sure your shoes are waterproof. Wet, cold toes are a recipe for frostbite.

Some last words before you head out the door‌ Drink water. Dehydration in the winter does not come from sweating, Miller said. “Your throat gets dry because the air sucks moisture out of the bronchial passages,â€? he said. Reach for your toes, but not too soon. It’s best to stretch after about 10 to 15 minutes of physical activity.

Warming up L the wagon

eaving your car unattended while the keys are in its ignition is illegal in Maryland, and a $70 fine is in place to help you remember — just in case. You could also earn a point against your driving record if you are cited. If that is not enough to keep you from not letting your car idle on its own, consider what an unwanted present it would be to have your automobile stolen from right out of your driveway. “The wintry season is the time of year when residents begin to warm up their vehicles during the early morning hours. Auto theft is mainly a crime of opportunity and this practice unfortunately creates a perfect opportunity for car thieves,� said Roberto L. Hylton, acting chief for the Prince George’s County Police Department, in a press release. Auto theft in Prince George's County is down 14.3 percent year to date over last year, the release states. County police credit this trend in part to citizens who are increasingly using anti-theft devices, and turning vehicles off and taking car keys with them.  According to the release, this winter officers will conduct enforcement in areas in which auto theft has been a problem. –Sarah Nemeth

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Work was completed last fall to replace water mains on Hamilton Street.

looking back continued from page 1

governments for public safety and parks and recreation, and coordinated with the State Highway Administration to improve certain intersections in the city n Completed new streets, new sidewalks, and purchased new equipment — chipper, trash truck, six police vehicles

2008 lowlights The 2008 economic downturn has severely impacted some residents, and it will likely take another year before things turn around. Some planned private investment, as well as some public projects that require state or county funding, will be delayed, Gardiner said.

Goals for 2009 Administration projects n Fill open positions in finance,


continued from page 1 lion. Right now, the Y is focused on completing the financing for a large project in [Washington,] D.C. that preceded the Hyattsville project. We continue to meet with the Y on this project. The city still owns the land around Renaissance Square, and if the Y project ultimately isn't feasible or the city determines there is a better use of the site, we could explore other options.” HLT: What impact will that development have on the community surrounding it, and are you expecting a crush of new residents to move into the city and fill those apartments? Gardiner: “The new units at Mosaic at Metro and the Post Properties [residential] project [on East West Highway] are perhaps the highest-quality apartments in [Prince George’s] County. Plus, both developments have the added benefit of proximity to Metro, entertainment and lots of restaurants. I believe the units will lease up, even given the relatively high rents that are charged. The landscape of [U.S] Route 1 is changing, with EYA, DeMatha's [convocation center], plus a number of great little shops and restaurants. It is working for most businesses. How-




communications, and parks and recreation [departments] New computer-aided dispatch system for police communications and new finance system integrating all departments Unveil the city’s new Web site and improve the city’s overall marketing efforts Complete several major studies that we have discussed for some time: • Community legacy plan / visioning / city goals — we must engage the community to identify how we want our community to look in five to 10 years. How do we best invest our resources to create the community we want? What type of services? • Efficiency study — major review of how we operate and how we might be able to provide the same services more efficiently

ever, it is still challenging and we must nurture the place-making we have started.The city can help by facilitating new, quality development, investing in infrastructure and services to make the areas as attractive as possible, and marketing the city.We need to evangelize a bit so that friends from the region shop here too.”   HLT: What do you foresee as being the biggest budget blood-suckers for this coming year? Do you have any general (or specific) ideas for funds to earmark? Is the economic downturn affecting Hyattsville as it is affecting other towns? Gardiner: “Personnel costs — salary and fringe benefits comprise about 60 percent  of the city's $14 million budget for operating and debt service. If you view the budget by department — excluding capital projects — the police department comprises about 40 percent of the city's total operating budget. These figures will likely  remain close to those levels.   “The money we get from the state — based on a formula related to miles of roads, registered vehicles, and state license and gas tax revenue — must be used on city road expenditures, but we spend far more on that work than we receive in state money.  Otherwise, I don’t think we have any revenue funds that are

• Parks master plan and city traffic study Work with the new council and new staff to more effectively develop, determine funding and implement city priorities n Develop and adopt an FY10 budget that continues city investment in our infrastructure and highlyvalued city services so the city is well positioned for the economic recovery n

Economic development n Create the best opportunity to facilitate the development of the proposed YMCA, new federal offices at University Town Center, the proposed Courtyard Marriott and other projects n Support local businesses and encourage residents to shop local first — these businesses have invested in us, and we want them to succeed. earmarked for specific expenditures and [the City] Council hasn’t really discussed it. “The economic downturn will likely impact revenue we receive from the state and county, but that is not a large percentage of our total revenue. The larger impact of the recession will be on the many new businesses that have opened during the past few years, and are now facing a challenging period.” HLT: The city’s upcoming biennial election is an item that has appeared on City Council agendas for the past couple months. What will be done differently this year as opposed to 2007? Will there be a push to “get out the vote”? Gardiner: This refers to recent changes in state law that allow early voting — such as voting at city hall the Saturday before election day — and absentee voting without stating a specific reason.  We will discuss changes to our process that could make it easier for people to vote in local elections.  We definitely need to increase voter turnout in local elections — regardless of who wins. It usually isn’t beneficial when fewer than 100 voters — as has been the case in a couple wards — determine who holds an elective office for four years. 

Hyattsville Life&Times | January 2009

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PINCH continued from page 1

What do you think?

We want to hear from you! To submit articles, letters to the editor, etc., e-mail

all over. The Washington Post recently reported that as of Dec. 23, companies nationwide made layoffs in 2008 that affected more than a million jobs. In the third quarter, the U.S. economy shrank at a 0.5 annual rate, which was the largest decrease since 2001. Maryland has lowered Medicaid payments to hospitals and nursing homes. Prince George’s County faces a budget shortfall and all county employees had to take two weeks furlough in 2008.

Parking issues For some business owners, the lack of parking on Baltimore Avenue creates problems for them. Lovelace said that his customers have nowhere to park, so he doesn’t get drop-in customers. De la Rosa agreed. “Parking is a huge thing,” he said. “It defines the business. From 6 to 9 a.m. and 4 to 6:30 p.m., you can’t park on the street, and our business drops.” Fatima Toure opened FA Braids, next door to Sooper Cuts, about six months ago. For her, a bigger transportation problem is the lack of adequate bus service along the traffic artery. “Most of my clients are teenag-


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Vivian Pollard, owner of The Beader's Workshop, on Baltimore Avenue, said her new business hasn't suffered during the national economic crisis.


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ers, so they don’t drive,” she said. “There’s only one bus that stops right here.” She said that her shop did well in the beginning but now things are slower. “It’s been harder than I thought it would be.”

The EYA connection The parking problem and the low level of pedestrian traffic are both related to the slower-than-expected pace of development on the east side of Baltimore Avenue by EYA, some say. “Very little parking is available to us because it was going to be part of EYA’s Phase Three development, which hasn’t happened yet,” Richards said. “Also, I’m hoping that once EYA opens the east side of Route 1, it will bolster our walk-by

“Business is slow but not horrible. OK is the word I’d use. People are still coming.” –Mike Franklin owner, Franklin’s Restaurant

traffic. Now, especially at night, it’s not an area people come to.” De la Rosa added, “It’s a domino effect. Until [EYA develops], we’re not close to any shopping, so we don’t get so much drop-in trade.” Café Azul, which is close to Artists on the Avenue, opened at the end of April 2008. Co-owner Joseph Serrano said the café’s business is slower than it was over the summer, and also talked about the lack of drop-ins. “If EYA would develop the other side of Route 1, there’ll be more foot traffic,” he said. Aakash Thakkar, EYA vice president for development, said that the company’s retail development on the east side of Baltimore Avenue will take place sometime in 2009. “It depends on securing additional leases for additional tenants,” he said. “We have 50 percent of the space leased now, and we look to have upward of 60 percent leased prior to starting construction. We hope to have that achieved by the first or second quarter of 2009.”

Streetscape Issues Close to the barber shop and the braiding salon is Wells Woodworking, owned by Stephen Druhan. “I think the streetscape around here could be better maintained by the city,” he said. “Some of the apartment residents don’t have trash service so they put their trash in the city cans and they overflow. And the vacant store fronts attract debris, too, and that gives things a decrepit look.” Across the street, Runway Studios Salon owner Shante Omotosha suggested putting up more lights and some benches in the area.

Positive reports Some of the Baltimore Avenue business owners reported doing well, or at least all right. Business has been steady at the Runway Studios Salon, according to master stylist Ann Margaret Annan, who said their trade hasn’t been affected by the downturn. “You can’t look for work if you

Barber Frank Lovelace trims the hair of Marques Smith of Colmar Manor. Lovelace said Saturdays are his busiest days.

don’t look the part,” she said. “A lot of our clients are business women,TV personalities, people in front of the public. Getting their hair and makeup done is essential to their business.” Druhan said that the dollar intake at Wells Woodworking is 20- to 30 percent less, but the number of jobs is about the same. “We’re doing surprisingly well, just a little bit leaner than last year,” he said. “People are cutting back on the scope of their work, but not the work itself. We’re more need-based.” Two area businesses have been doing well. Larry Paulson of A Tangled Skein yarn store said his business is not affected by economic hardship like other types of retail. “We had a good fall,” he said.“In difficult economic times, knitting stores tend to do well. I also think people in this area won’t cut back too much on discretionary purchases because incomes here are more stable.We’re insulated somewhat geographically.” In a similar vein,Vivian Pollard of The Beader’s Workshop said outlets like hers and Paulson’s can thrive during hard times. “People are turning to crafting in this downturn, making gifts for their friends and loved ones,” she said. “So things have been going well. And we like it here better than Bowie Town Center, where we were before. That wasn’t conducive for boutiques or craft shops. We’ve made a lot of new friends and customers here.” Shagga Coffee and Restaurant and Rancho Grande Bar and Grill have been open four months and two months, respectively. Shagga owner Kelem Lemu and Rancho Grande manager Melva Contreras both said business has been steady.

Working together Angelisa Hawes, owner of the Book Nook Bookstore saw a downturn begin last summer. “Business has been slow,” she said. “People are cutting back, buying books from thrift stores.” But she said that some of the businesses in the city got together to do things to boost sales. “The day after Thanksgiving, some of us stayed open late and discounted things.” In general, we are trying to stress buy local. When you do, more of your tax dollars go into the community. And it’s better for the environment to have, say, one truck bringing all your books to one place.”

Hyattsville Life&Times | January 2009

Page 9

The white squirrel by Dolores Aquista


he first time I saw her, she was nearly flying as she raced in circles, ‘round and ‘round a tree trunk in Dietz Park, a snowwhite sprite, like a ribbon around a maypole. She was a lovely sight to behold, a tiny treasure, unbeknownst to her – of that, I am certain. Behind her, in hot pursuit, was one of her own, a game of cat-and-mouse. She was as white as a fresh magnolia blossom in full bloom – her friend the usual silvergrey color of gunmetal. I was with my children, Sam, Lydia, and Nora, and my husband, Mark, strolling into the park, as we so often did on the weekends. The kids love the park and we like sharing the time with them. As we approached the playground, gasps of surprise and pleasure arose from each of us as we observed the show, our eyes riveted on the branches above, charmed by her every move. She leapt among the branches as if she wore miniature springs on her tiny white feet. My heart swelled as I embraced her image, emblazoned on my mind and etched upon my soul forever. Last week as I drove my children home from school, I saw her again, this time on the east side of 42nd Avenue at Queensbury Road. I drove past her. She lay as still as a snowdrift on a winter’s day, her delicate presence as still in death as it was ani-

COCONUT TREE continued from page 1

tuce, tomato, mayonnaise, ketchup and banana peppers and shadow beni — a sauce of lemon juice and an herb similar to cilantro — transforms the finned predator into culinary Epicureanism and makes it accessible to both neophytes and aficionados of Caribbean cuisine. For those not yet ready to enjoy the ocean’s alpha predator, de la Rosa and his wife Charmain Lovelace, owner of the restaurant on Bal-

mated in life. My hand flew to my mouth when I recognized her, and the tears welled in my eyes. I turned the van around and stopped. I knelt beside her and saw that not a scratch marred her body. She was exquisite, perfection, her delicate snow-white feet and tiny white claws gently curved as she lay on her side. We placed her in a plastic shopping bag. She spent the night in the shed on a rolled up old rug, wrapped in a towel. I hoped that somehow she would awaken from her sleep and I would find the towel I’d wrapped her in empty. The next morning she lay where I’d left her, her eyes gently closed, looking for all the world like a peacefully sleeping white squirrel. I stroked her head and was amazed at the softness of her fur, so soft, like the fuzz on a pussy-willow catkin. Our children had questions – we spoke of God, we shared a prayer for her spirit, and placed her towel-wrapped form in the hole Mark had dug the night before. I think we paid worthy tribute to her life, and then we sent her on her way. As in our tradition, each family member placed a shovel full of dirt into her small grave until the ground was once again solid and firm. Somewhere out in the universe, a little white squirrel is racing around a tree, her tail flying behind her. Her spirit lives on. and chana (fried chick peas), and the spinach and cheese patties. As well as standard American beverages, the restaurant offers Caribbean soft drinks and a homemade sorrel, which tastes similar to hibiscus tea. Restaurant decor emphasizes de la Rosa and Lovelace’s local and Caribbean roots. Posters with the Maryland Terrapins and the Washington Redskins contrast portraits of Trinidadian icons “Buzz� Butler and Eric Eustace Williams. The open kitchen and high ceilings complement the familial camarade-

Clientele reflect the restaurant’s culinary and cultural eclecticism. On a recent Monday morning, a steady stream of police officers, college students, professionals and delivery people dropped in for coffee, pastries and conversation. Under the chatter, however, lay accomplished West Indian cuisine. timore Ave., offer a menu that caters to diverse tastes. The breakfast menu includes pastries and muffins — highlighted by currant rolls and cassava pone — that de la Rosa bakes every morning. Customers on the run can enjoy the selection of fresh-baked breads for sale next to the pastry case. De la Rosa recommends the hops bread, which is like a baguette, warmed in the oven and spread with butter or cheese. The Caribbean lunch and dinner crowd gravitate toward the stewed ox tail or the goat roti. Novices to West Indian fare, however, might try the chicken roti, an unleavened flat bread wrap with chicken and potato, or the Trini patty, which contains more meat than the Jamaican patty. Vegetarian selections include the aloo pie, the roti with potato

rie existing between customers and staff — most of whom are related to the owners. Clientele reflect the restaurant’s culinary and cultural eclecticism. On a recent Monday morning, a steady stream of police officers, college students, professionals and delivery people dropped in for coffee, pastries and conversation. Under the chatter, however, lay accomplished West Indian cuisine. And no dish justifies the distinction more than the Saturday Shark and Bake Special with extra shadow beni, which my dining companion needed only one word to sum up, “Delicious!� (5124 Baltimore Ave. Open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Pastries $1-$2; Entrees $4-$11. Carry-out offered. Catering provided for special events.)












Hyattsville Life&Times | January 2009

Page 10

Pie contest sure to stick around by Jeanne Canavan







n a world rife with anxiety — markets crashing, high gas prices, etc. — a simple tradition was born. Eat pie. And not just any pie. Apple pie. In a tidy Cape Cod on Madison Street some Hyattsville residents gathered at the prompting of Elizabeth Turcanova.  After several conversations with  friends and neighbors who boasted of having the best apple pie recipe, she decided to put the proof in the pie, so to speak.  "Well, one night when I couldn't sleep, I just kept thinking about this pie thing,� Turcanova said. “It really bugged me that some of my friends thought their pies were so good, even better than mine. I just kept telling myself, 'There's only one way to decide.’� She instituted the Hyattsville First Annual Pie Bake Off, not to be confused with a pie-eating contest. The process was simple:  bring an apple pie that you baked yourself and judges would determine which one was the best. 

been eliminated from the contest altogether. "I really thought they were going to kick me out because my pie was still baking in the oven,� she said. “I was so happy that they waited to taste mine before they made their determination. That meant so much to me."  Turcanova pointed out that the rules for next year's contest would probably be stricter and Kahm was lucky to have been given some leniency.  Kahm ended up winning the Best Apple category. Rhonda Ortiz won Best Pie Filling, and Turcanova won Best Crust. The overall winner was Peggy Burgoyne.  "I just couldn't believe my ears," she said. "It was the first time I had baked an apple pie and I thought that it was going to be a disaster.  I think the secret ingredient I added at the last minute really brought all the flavors together."  Burgoyne won a black stuffed gorilla hand puppet and bragging rights.  At the last minute judges de-


s i h t s e r e to e t n o c st a e h T

However, several judges were disqualified because they were related to people who had entries in the contest. "I was originally on the judges' list, but late in the afternoon of the day of the Bake-Off, I got this call from Elizabeth,� said Jared Ortiz. “She told me that she was sorry to have to do this, but my wife wanted to be in the contest, and she just didn't think it was fair to have me as a judge." Tension was high as four judges conferred after stuffing their faces for nearly an hour.  Denise Kahm was especially nervous.  She explained with tears in her eyes that she was very grateful not to have


cided to award Dan Myers the Best Dressed award for coming in a suit, and several participants thought that was inappropriate. Nick Kahm explained, "Some of us were irritated at the award. I mean, that really took the focus off of the pies, and it was too random to be included, no offense to Dan." Turcanova refused to comment on the Best Dressed award, but she did say that the contest is here to stay. "I thank all the participants and judges and hope that next year's contest will go more smoothly," she said.

is your community newspaper. Tell us what you think.

Hyattsville Life&Times | January 2009

Page 11

TAKING IT TO THE BANK continued from page 4

have also led to vacancies and abandonment,â€? the report states. “When left unaddressed, these problem properties impose severe costs on neighborhoods, including reduced property values and tax revenues, increased arson and crime, and greater demands for police surveillance and response.â€? In a Dec. 4 speech, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said lenders “appear to be on track to initiate 2Âź million foreclosures in 2008.â€? But the BB&T purchase is not necessarily an instance of land banking, said Stuart Eisenberg, executive director for the Hyattsville Community Development Corporation. “If they consciously take it out of play, it’s a good land banking opportunity,â€? he said. “Land banking applies conscious choice to take property out of use. A government will do it smartly when the property is at the lowest valuation.â€? Eisenberg said that, to his knowledge, land banking has not been utilized as a public redevelopment tool

bank building continued from page 4

purchase of the building. However, the City Council has not determined the actual use of the building once it has been purchased from BB&T. Some of the options the council is looking into are: n Single school tenant; n Non-school single tenant; n Community non-profit multitenant use; and n Exploratory purchase (use not determined). A task force has been approved to funnel to the council ideas for the building’s use. The task force must be created by the end of this month, and must offer suggestions to the council by the end of April, according to council legislation. Hyattsville’s FY09 budget includes $1.1 million for the pur-

in Hyattsville to date. “[The] use of the term land banking implies a plan, and a strategy extending through time over many years,â€? he said. “An extension of vision connecting the already otherwise ‌ connected  past and future via human will.â€? Land banking is not common in Prince George’s County, Eisenberg said. But in some areas, like Greenbelt and Riverdale Park, government entities have purchased property to save it from being redeveloped for uses not in line with what the municipalities sought. About five years ago the City of Greenbelt bought the single-screen movie theater in the city’s historic area in order to keep it operating as a movie theater, said Michael McLaughlin, Greenbelt’s city manager. “There had been mention of it either closing or being turned into a discount retail store,â€? McLaughlin said.  “The city felt it was important to work to keep a theater as part of the economic vitality of the area.  Not many communities own their own movie theater. Greenbelt has also invested millions of dollars in a school that was to be surplused and made it into a community cen-

ter and acquired a couple hundred acres of land that is sitting passive as a green space for the community.� In Riverdale Park, the town bought property in its historic town center to encourage redevelopment in the area, said Alice Ewen Walker, a member of the town’s council. “[Riverdale Park] acquired the property, found a developer (Douglas Development) who would respond to our specific [request for proposal], which included a number of covenants, and then we sold it to the developer who implemented the renovation/restoration of the property,� she said. “I believe local government should look at creative strategies to encourage revitalization or support historic and natural assets,� she said, though not speaking directly to Hyattsville’s decision to purchase the BB&T building. “There are a lot of ways to do that, and buying property — whether outright or in part through public-private partnerships that offer government backed financing — is an option. To me it isn't a philosophical issue about whether land banking is good or bad — it just comes down to whether a particular project is a good financial deal for taxpayers or not.�

chase of this building using bond financing. The actual FY09 budget impact will depend on the date of settlement and the interest rate and term of the bond. The $50,000 for building repairs and maintenance may also be financed by the bond, according to the motion. Council has not yet determined what financial entity it will enter into a bond with. The city received a quote on Nov. 25, 2008 from BB&T of 3.93 percent for a 15-year bond. The city has also looked into financing through Sun Trust Bank and Bank of America, Gardiner said. Other quotes have been up to 4.76 percent. The likely annual cost of the bond will be about $100,000. The net cost or revenue of the building will depend on how quickly tenants move in and their lease rates, the motion states. Perry, who voted against the mo-

tion, said she did not understand how the bank would be able to sell the building so far below market rate. “I would like to know how they can accept bailout money from taxpayers but they can give away buildings,� she said, referring to the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, through which the federal government authorized the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury to spend up to $700 billion to, among other things, support failing banks. In October, BB&T Corp. received preliminary approval to get $3.1 billion in government bailout funds, according to a news release on the corporation’s Web site. However, BB&T's Tier 1 capital ratio — which measures a company’s financial stability — will increase to 12.4 percent from 9.4 percent, the release states. The government's safety threshold is 6 percent.

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Hyattsville Life&Times | January 2009

Page 12

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Hyattsville Life & Times January 2009  

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