Minutes of November 2020 Regular Meeting

North College Park Community Association
November 12, 2020 – Regular Meeting by Zoom

Attending: President Mary Cook, Vice President Carol Macknis, Secretary Ellen Caswell, Mayor Patrick Wojahn, Councilmembers Fazlul Kabir and Maria Mackie, John Krouse, Bob Catlin, Arelis Pérez, Brook Biddulph, Nicola White, Judy Blumenthal, Carissa Janis, and Stephanie Butler.

Meeting called to order at 8:01 pm.

Officers’ Reports:

President Mary Cook: (1) Cherry Hill is working successfully with Councilman Dernoga’s office, Parks and Planning, and the county’s Department of Public Works and Transportation to resolve the flooding issue. (2) The graffiti on the children’s playground will be taken care of.

Vice President Carol Macknis: The community police meetings are working to revitalize Neighborhood Watch in North College Park’s District 1. Community Police information is at http://b.link/CPCommunityPolice; virtual meetings are the 2nd Monday of the month at 7:30. Questions or interest, contact Carol Macknis or Fazlul Kabir. (2) Communications about College Park events can be found at CollegeParkMD.org; at MYNCPCA.org (Google email, an email list, and Upcoming Events); in Mayor Wojahn’s weekly updates on NextDoor; and through Councilmember Kabir’s daily emails, which are posted on NextDoor and at KabirCares.org.

Treasurer Jordan Schakner (via email): We have a total of $1325.26 in the bank and another $10 check to deposit.

Minutes of October 8, 2020 Meeting: Arelis Pérez moved to approve; Carol Macknis seconded. Passed. Possible agenda item regarding mowing will be addressed at a later date.

Hollywood Elementary School PTA Presentation: Co-President Brook Biddulph (brooknotbrooke@gmail.com) and co-Treasurer Nicola White (nicolanettowhite@gmail.com) presented. The PTA has taken the tragic loss of their president and the unique situation of Covid as motivation to be inventive. President Cook invited them here to forge a relationship between the NCPCA and the PTA. The PTA is very active; initiatives include a Thanksgiving raffle, providing technology help, creating a language translation team teachers and parents can reach out to, arranging child care donations or vouchers, a food drive, a silent auction, a neighborhood cleanup, community building activities such as a school movie night, and people donating their change. We can help with advertising and volunteers, link activities on our site, and add them to our email list. The City Council recently awarded $8000 to Hollywood Elementary to buy Chromebooks.

McMansions in Our City: Judy Blumenthal proposed a motion:

I move that NCPCA establish a Committee entitled ‘NCPCA Residential Property Redevelopment Committee’ to work and understand more clearly what the Prince George’s County Planning Department, Planning Board, County Council, College Park City Council and City staff are pro-actively doing to:

(1) Maintain the residential quality of North College Park; and

(2) To prevent recurrences of inappropriate home development such as ‘McMansions’ etc. from being constructed in College Park; and

(3) To assist Prince George’s County and College Park to establish oversight and develop guidelines for the development of style, size, and lot coverage standards for future residential property improvements in North College Park and nearby communities.

Arelis Pérez seconded. A lively discussion about McMansions followed. The committee could gather facts, details, and wording, including a previous “mansionization” study and ideas for pattern guides for neighborhoods, to present to Councilman Dernoga. The motion passed. Judy Blumenthal, John Krouse, Arelis Pérez, and Mary Cook volunteered to be on the committee.

Attick Towers: Housing Authority board members Bob Catlin and Arelis Pérez presented. Catlin, the current chair, has been a Housing Authority member for the last six years and Pérez about 3 years; the rest are much newer. Executive Director Michelle Johnson has been on board since last December. Catlin discussed affordable housing, public housing, and section 8; Attick Towers has the oldest kind. With no money to renovate the system, Congress’s solution is to change it to something like Spellman House, managed by a private company. Catlin described the layout at Attick Towers; Covid prevents them from using all of the 180 units. The operating budget is about $1M a year. People who live there pay 30% of their income; the other two-thirds are from HUD affordable housing payments. They are in the process of setting up a nonprofit sister organization and an independent website. Pérez considers Executive Director Johnson a very well qualified director. With her experience in maneuvering through the county and the state, there will be a lot of positive changes for Attick Towers. They’re improving the use of technology and social media, and are providing training for the board commissioners. Quality of life for seniors and the disabled shouldn’t be any less. The Youth, Family, and Senior Services from the city have an office there, and Kiaisha Barber, Johnson, and their staffs check in on all residents on a weekly basis. Staff meet with residents to help with bills, Medicare, and so on. Communication is key, whether by email, text, voicemail, or the 24/7 call center. Pérez said the focus is on rebuilding morale, patience, dignity, integrity, love, compassion, kindness.

Multigenerational Community Center: A recent forum presented ideas for a center near Prince George’s Plaza. President Cook brought this up because Park and Planning said, “The formula 20/40 plan recommended a small indoor recreation facility approximately the size of a gymnasium be constructed in North College Park area. Our planning team is in the beginning stages of preparing a feasibility study for that amenity.” This nod to a North College Park center is encouraging. Cook wrote the November editorial, “Say yes to a community center,” for College Park Here & Now. Councilmember Kabir provided cautionary detail about various initiatives, says we should find out if this is related to Dernoga’s planned feasibility study with $250,000 allocated.

Official Announcements (limit 2 minutes):

Councilmember Mackie: (1) She loves College Park Here & Now and thanks President Cook for her article. (2) The One Warm Coat Drive won’t be held this year. Mackie suggests donating a gift card to buy a coat. (3) Remember to rake your leaves to the curb and not into the street to avoid flooding. (4) Help the Department of Public Works by bundling yard waste if you don’t have a beige tote. (5) There’s still time to sign up for meals for seniors and those with disabilities.

Mayor Wojahn: (1) Links for the meals for County District 1: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/grab-n-go-meals-for-seniors-residents-w-disabilities-pr-geo-co-govt-registration-126476583867 and https://bit.ly/D3Meals. (2) The city Tree and Landscape Board has proposed a controversial tree ordinance, to stem city tree canopy loss, limiting the ability of residents to cut down their trees and adding a requirement to replace trees. At the Council’s request, a forum is scheduled for Wednesday, November 18. (3) The College Park Food Bank, collegeparkfoodbank.org, had a turkey drive. You can donate nonperishables and limited perishables on Saturday mornings. (4) The city was holding the District 2 Special Election, via mail and in-person, with a live-on-video vote count.

Councilmember Kabir: The Lakeland Community Heritage Project, in partnership with the Maryland Institute of Technology, will hold a forum November 19 to discuss stories from College Park’s Lakeland Community.

New Business:

Councilmember Kabir suggests inviting the new Councilmember-elect, Llatetra Brown Esters, because part of District 2 is in North College Park.

Vice President Macknis suggested a meeting on Public Safety, updating information on a recent study’s recommendations, possibly with Bob Ryan who coordinates our contract police. People complain about speeding, stop signs, car vandalism and other issues on NextDoor.

Arelis Pérez and Mary Cook suggested bringing back the smoke alarm law of 2018 and inviting a fire marshal to demonstrate fire extinguishers and suggest where to take old extinguishers.

President Cook: Christmas party! Arelis Pérez suggests a virtual happy hour Christmas party.

Meeting adjourned at 9:26 pm; Carol Macknis moved, Arelis Pérez seconded.