Category Archives: Takoma Park Newsletter

Category for original news items as well as Takoma Park Newsletter articles that are copied into as web content.

Learning takes flight at Takoma Wings Academy

By Rick Henry

Takoma Wings Academy (TWA) is an example of a great idea that has taken flight. In this case, literally.

The unique program brings middle school boys and girls from low-income, immigrant families together in a summer camp to investigate the science and engineering of flight in nature, aviation and space exploration as well as flight as a means of self-expression in the arts.

The ½ day, three-week summer camp, which has been held at Takoma Academy for the last two years, recently received a $9,000 Community of Life Grant from the City of Takoma Park.

It is a joint venture between two area nonprofits, Silver-Spring-based Artivate, which specializes in arts-based community learning programs, such as workshops, performances and artist-in-residence programs, and Big Learning, (formerly the Montgomery County Council of PTAs), which operates elementary and middle school instructional programs in language and the sciences.

The pairing of the two organizations was intentional, said James Modrick, Artivate’s executive director. “We wanted participants to explore the science and engineering of flight through an artistic lens. The program engages both sides of the brain, the technical side and the creative side.”

Jane De Winter, Big Learning’s executive director, agreed, noting the two organizations had worked together on previous initiatives before deciding to pair up on TWA. Both De Winter and Modrick stress the concept of STEAM education rather than STEM education.

“Big Learning is focused on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), but Artivate provides the A (Arts) piece that is so important,” De Winter said. Merging the two means getting participants involved in both designing and building.

“We take a `maker’ approach that gets them involved in building and testing different types of flight devices, such as hovercrafts and hydroplanes,” Modrick said.

De Winter added that they engage the participants in friendly competitions that allow them to showcase what they have developed. “We have them build catapults and see who can launch things the farthest, for example,” she said.

These challenges not only provide a fun way for the campers to test their prototypes, but they teach them important lessons about resiliency and experimentation. “If something doesn’t work as well as they hoped, the kids learn to go back and look at the problem a different way and make adjustments,” she said. “It shows that failure is not a deal breaker, but part of the process.” Beyond that, De Winter said, the challenges allow the participants to coalesce and support each other.

Such lessons and hands-on experiences are particularly import for the demographic enrolled in the program, boys and girls, aged 10-14, from low-income families in Takoma Park and Langley Park. The initial program began when one of Artiavte’s main funders, the Trawick Foundation, approached the group about creating a program for low-income, middle-school boys.

The first TWA was limited to boys only, but the second year’s camp was opened up to both boys and girls. Twenty boys attended the initial camp, while 26 participants, split nearly even between boys and girls, according to Modrick, attended last year’s Academy. The only cost is a $25 registration fee. All materials, instruction, and field trips to places like Goddard Space Flight Center, the ropes course at Sandy Spring Adventure Park and the Air & Space Museum are free.

According to Modrick, in addition to next summer’s camp, there are also plans to host a camp over the 2017 spring break.

Interested participants and those who want to more about the initiative can contact the Artivate office at 301-588-7525 or to get information on the next TWA program.

Rick’s resolution is to run a 10K race in 2017.

This article appeared in the January 2017 edition of the Takoma Park Newsletter. The Takoma Park Newsletter is available for download here.

Takoma Junction Redevelopment Update

At its Dec. 7 business meeting, the Takoma Park City Council voted to allow 30 more days for a Letter of Intent to be negotiated and agreed to by the Takoma Park Silver Spring Co-op and the City’s development partner, NDC, regarding the Takoma Junction development. In the meantime, NDC has signed a Letter of Intent with the Ability Project to provide a second story, 6,000 sq. ft. space in the development for adults with special needs to have a supportive environment in which they can gather and relax.

To learn more about the content of discussions with the Co-op to date and where things stand regarding current plans and aspirations, residents may wish to view this presentation given by NDC President Adrian Washington: city-blog/takoma-junction-redevelopmentupdate. Residents are welcome to weigh in now and in the months ahead.

What are the City Council’s goals for the project?

The goals of the City Council regarding the Takoma Junction development project remain: improve the aesthetic appeal of the commercial district and be contextually sensitive and environmentally sustainable. The Council has repeatedly expressed its concern for the well-being of the Co-op, particularly its need for continuity of operations. And, the Council is looking at the long-term needs of the City’s taxpayers by putting a key property back on the tax rolls.

Where, exactly, will the Co-op be located?

There are two choices: the Co-op may remain in the building it is in and expand or not, or the Co-op could opt for relocating into a brand new building on the site of the City’s current surface parking lot. NDC has presented concept designs for either option. Moving into a new building adjacent to its current building has advantages in terms of the Co-op’s continuity of operations and the opportunity to occupy a space optimized for grocery use. However, the Co-op may not wish to pursue that option. To be clear: NDC remains open to an arrangement where the Co-op is the anchor tenant and retains their current space, while also addressing the Council’s overarching goals. NDC’s proposals do not include relocating the Co-op to a site away from the Junction.

What about traffic studies, and will the State Highway Administration allow a “lay-by” design for large trucks to unload in front of the Co-op?

While NDC’s traffic consultant has been active in the development of options, a real traffic study does not come until later when more information is known about a proposed site plan and potential uses. At the Mayor’s request, City staff confirmed that SHA has no objections to such a design in concept.

How will the process move forward?

The final design of the Takoma Junction project is a long way off — there is a whole Takoma Park community process ahead, as well as the site plan review process through Montgomery County. The Council will be weighing many aspects of the site plan, including design, parking, loading, community use space, and safety. As a City-owned property, the Council has final say, within the parameters of the County’s Codes.

How can city residents provide their input?

Comments may be submitted through the City’s website at

Public Works snow removal plan

By Daryl Braithwaite, Public Works Director

Public Works staffers are preparing to work hard to clear whatever snow falls on Takoma Park’s 34 miles of city-maintained roads, as well as walkways and sidewalks around city parks and public buildings. City staff tracks potential storms as they develop and prepares our response. Plow crews start plowing operations when one inch of snow is on the ground and are prepared to work 12-hour shifts. The City uses Public Works Right of Way staff as primary plow drivers, and sanitation drivers fill in the second shift. When significant snowfall occurs, city trash and recycling collection may be canceled to allow sanitation drivers to pitch in with road clearing. The City’s garden division staff clears public sidewalks during daylight hours with assistance as needed from temporary laborers. Public Works encourages businesses and residents to do their part to clear snow and ice from the sidewalks adjoining their property.

Takoma Park’s winter weather response plan divides the city into five snow removal zones, each with an assigned response vehicle. Within each zone, “primary streets” are those with the most traffic, and those that connect neighborhoods. “Secondary streets” are shorter, with fewer homes, and include courts, alleys and dead ends. The City’s crews first clear primary streets and then proceed to secondary streets. The City’s goal is to create two travelable lanes on each primary street within a 12- hour shift if the snow fall is six inches or less. If the snow fall is six inches or more, the expectation is to have one travelable lane over a 12-hour period. Snow removal equipment remains in service around the clock until all the roads are cleared. To see a map of snow removal routes, go to www.

Often, when severe weather is on the way, the City begins anti-icing procedures by applying a sand salt mixture or liquid de-icing chemicals to the street surface. Plowing begins once snowfall has accumulated to one inch on the street. If the storm produces only sleet and ice, the city treats roadways with sand and salt. Snow and ice response service on some streets is performed by outside agencies. The State Highway Administration is responsible for clearing Carroll Avenue, Ethan Allen Avenue, New Hampshire Avenue, Philadelphia Avenue and Piney Branch Road. Sligo Creek Parkway is a Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission roadway, and snow and ice response is performed by Montgomery County. However, city plows will assist with snow removal on these streets in the course of their work to clear city streets.

If you have any questions before or during a winter event, please contact the Public Works Department at 301-891-7633.

This article appeared in the January 2017 edition of the Takoma Park Newsletter. The Takoma Park Newsletter is available for download here.

A movement mobilizes in Takoma Park

By Helen Lyons

Hundreds gathered at Piney Branch Elementary School in Takoma Park on Dec. 4 for “Takoma Park Mobilization.”

The event, organized by Jennifer Wofford, called for residents to “join others who want to do specific things to support all our neighbors, oppose racism and hate, defend social programs, protect our immigrant neighbors, defend reproductive rights, defend civil liberties and democracy, save our planet, and get organized!”

Takoma Park resident Will Ramsey came ready to get more involved. “I’m concerned about social issues,” Ramsey said. “So much is happening in the country right now. I think that people have been tricked by the election, and I’m concerned that so many people can buy into a leadership that’s based on a lot of lies.”

The auditorium of the elementary school was filled to the brim with people and posters lined the walls proposing working groups in areas, such as immigration, health care, civil liberties and civil rights, environment, and communications.

“My fear is that people are going to have less freedom and less opportunity under this administration,” Ramsey said. He and others crowded into the school to listen to passionate speeches from community members and connect with others who share similar expertise and goals for political activism.

“The point is to organize Takoma Park in a positive way,” explained Sharon Stout, who joined the COOL (Communications/ Outreach/Organizing/Logistics) Committee and helped people sign in at the door, “and to form working groups on various topics that are of interest to people.”

Residents took turns addressing the crowd using a microphone, giving a brief description of their committee ideas and goals and designating a place in the auditorium where those interested could gather and begin planning.

Jennifer Wofford was thrilled to see so many engaged people there. “A couple of the working groups that had just gotten started when we first met have amazing people on them,” Wofford said. “[For example] the health care committee. I’m totally amazed by all these people who are so knowledgeable on health care and passionate about it.”

During the weeks following the kickoff event, more committees took shape and began developing agendas and goals. Each committee has one or two point people to coordinate emails and meetings and rotating facilitators, explained Anita Budhraja, Takoma Park resident and member of the Immigration and Muslim rights committee.

“Since Trump was elected, there were a lot of people who weren’t politicized who are getting politicized and feeling motivated to be engaged citizens and be involved in politics,” Budhraja said. “I’m one of those people who might not call themselves activists, but are ready to act.”

Takoma Park activist Nadine Block wanted “to energize people and create a space where people can form working groups and take on real projects.”

Anyone can join one of 13 committees currently in existence: the economic equity committee, the immigration, sanctuary, Muslim working group, the health care committee, the committee for the women’s march, the breaking bread together: community dinners group, the stand up! Show up! rapid response to hate crimes or racism group, the electoral/constitutional committee, the education & training committee, the subcommittee on diversity, inclusion, bias and anti-racism training, the environmental committee, the civil rights & civil liberties committee], the LGBTQ committee and the communications/outreach/organizing/logistics committee (COOL).

For more general information, visit or email takomaparkmobilization@gmail. com.

The next meeting of Takoma Park Mobilization will be Saturday, Jan. 28 at 4 p.m. at Piney Branch Elementary School. Gustavo Torres of CASA de Maryland will be one of the speakers at the meeting.

Helen’s resolution for 2017 is to have more fun!

This article appeared in the January 2017 edition of the Takoma Park Newsletter. The Takoma Park Newsletter is available for download here.

FSGW shares folk arts

By Morgan Fecto

It’s a Thursday night in early December, and although the days are darker, things are light at April Blum’s Adelphi home. That is, Contra dancers are light on their feet.

“The hall we’re usually in wasn’t available, but as it happens, I have a 25 foot by 50 foot ballroom in my house,” said Blum, who is president of the Folklore Society of Greater Washington. “We call it ‘Ballroom Blum,’ and we even have a Facebook page.”

Blum lends her home to the arts, and as a part of FSGW, she gives her time to sharing folk arts with the community. Of the 200 annual FSGW-sponsored events, the Mini Fest at Takoma Park Middle School is especially significant to those who organize it.

“It’s just an absolutely joyous way to spend a cold and grey February day — regardless of the weather, it’s warm inside,” said Blum. “My favorite is walking the hallway and hearing music coming from the stairwell or people singing acapella.”

Spontaneity and participation are cornerstones of Mini Fest’s fun. Morris Dancers break into “Morris Choruses,” Flamenco dancers and cigar box guitar makers give workshops, and singers from every folk tradition fill the middle school’s cafeteria, the craft-lined hallways, and five adjacent classrooms with a cacophony of sound.

“It’s a blast is what it is,” said Mini Fest programmer Mike Livingston. “Being able to share stuff with the community and have it be well received, that’s exhilarating.

Organizers finalize the Fest’s program schedule in midJanuary, but attendees can bank on harmony workshops, a “Jams Room,” banjo, English Country dancing, storytellers spinning tall tales, and of course, Subway sandwiches. They can also expect something new: a room dedicated to participatory programs for families with children.

“You or I, if we’re not into a performance then we can walk down the hall, but kids can’t if they’re not excited,” Livingston said. “That’s why we’re going to give them an opportunity to do something.”

Since Blum started organizing the Mini Fest with Charlie Baum in 2006, she’s wanted to expand the children’s programming at Mini Fest. The hope is that expanding the variety of workshops and demos will introduce them to a lifelong passion.

“Dancing brings us together, and children get it,” said Blum. “They see that you’re more powerful in a group, and they see those crisp moments in a group dance when everyone reaches out their hands to simultaneously make a star. Dance is ephemeral. It’s passing beauty.”

It’s that kind of zeal for the arts that keeps the all-volunteer FSGW running. “The key word in the FSGW is ‘society.’ It’s everyone stepping up to make this happen,” Livingston said.

When it comes time to schedule the Fest’s programs, stepping up kicks into high gear.

“What happens in a community like this — with talented people who are so engaged — is that many of the performers are involved with more than one thing — a musician in one group, a dancer in another, with a thing on the side,” Livingston said. “It’s about navigating schedule conflicts. Charlie does a really good job of organizing things so that people don’t have to be in three places at once.”

When past Mini Fest schedules have included 300 performers, this can be quite a juggling act. Even with such a robust program, Blum said that the Fest is always affordable. “FSGW was founded 50 years ago at the height of the folk music revival. There’s a certain philanthropic idea that making music and dance available to the community at large and paying musicians for their talents is an important thing for a society to do,” Blum said. “Our ticket prices are low so that people can afford to come.”

Experiencing art and kinship is more vital in such dark winter days, too. “When you dance down the line at Contra and someone swings you, it’s like getting a hug every time,” Blum said. “We’re primates — we need to be touched, but most of us sit at computers all day, so dancing brings us together.”

Livingston echoed Blum: “It’s also true, as Abe JoynerMeyers [of fiddle ensemble Maelstrom] has pointed out, ‘In dark or difficult times, we need to put some energy into our culture, and the arts and humanities create community and promote inclusiveness.’”

The 2017 Mini Fest is on Feb. 4 and runs from noon until 10:30 p.m. with a break from 6 – 7:30 p.m. Ticket prices range from eight dollars to 55 dollars, varying based on group size, time frame of attendance, and FSGW membership statues. To learn more about Mini Fest, visit fsgw. org. To inquire about volunteering or becoming an FSGW member, contact April Blum at

Morgan’s resolution for the New Year is to do a cartwheel really casually, and to not make a big deal out of it. Although, she wants to know in her heart that everyone saw it — just one stunning, gorgeous cartwheel.

This article appeared in the January 2017 edition of the Takoma Park Newsletter. The Takoma Park Newsletter is available for download here.

Feasibility study begins at Piney Branch Elementary School

By Apryl Motley

With the Montgomery County Board of Education’s appointment of the architectural firm of SmolenEmr-Ilkovitch Architects Inc. on Nov. 15, 2016, the feasibility study at Piney Branch Elementary School officially got under way. The primary focus of the study is to determine the feasibility for a classroom addition to alleviate overcrowding at the school and address the projected need for even more space in the future.

Architects have started the due diligence phase of the study, which, according to Seth Adams, director of the division of construction for Montgomery County Public Schools, “focuses on looking at the building as a whole in terms of both civil and structural engineering.”

Adams stressed that this is not a decision-making process. “Part of due diligence is understanding what’s there,” he said. “This is a data collection and fact-finding process to look at the feasibility of all options, including maintaining or not maintaining the pool. Information will be collected about the pros and cons of each option.”

From the City’s perspective, “the ideal outcome is that the needed classroom space is added, but not necessarily to the detriment of the existing pool,” noted Deputy City Manager Jason Damweber. “Acknowledging the need for classroom space is paramount. If something has to happen with the pool at PBES, then we hope our partners — namely at the County, the school system, Washington Adventist Hospital, Montgomery College — step up and help advocate for and/or finance construction of a new pool/ aquatics center locally.”

Once the due diligence phase is complete, the community feedback process will begin giving City leadership and residents the opportunity to share their concerns. “The community will have multiple opportunities for feedback,” Adams said. The first of four meetings will be scheduled for the end of this month or the beginning of February.

“At the first meeting, what we’re trying to accomplish is showing some initial concepts [for a classroom addition] and getting feedback about the community’s priorities,” he explained. “Then, the second meeting is typically scheduled two weeks after the first giving us time to revise the concepts based on the community’s feedback.”

In terms of the overall timeline for the study, the goal is finalize the report in the spring. With that report in hand, the superintendent will make a recommendation to the board of education, and should they act on that recommendation, the Montgomery County Council will make the final decision about whether to move forward with a classroom addition at Piney Branch. “The feasibility study does not mean there will be a project at Piney Branch,” Adams said. “It will be determined whether this is a priority from a capital project perspective.”

The first meeting to solicit community feedback will be advertised via cards sent to parents via mail and also sent home with students. This information will also be posted on the construction division’s website when it becomes available: www. facilities/construction/index.aspx.

This article appeared in the January 2017 edition of the Takoma Park Newsletter. The Takoma Park Newsletter is available for download here.

Local rental housing needed to support refugee resettlement

Takoma Park Welcoming Committee for Syrian Families has been actively working since November 2015 to support resettlement of Syrian families in Takoma Park. We are working with resettlement agencies to meet this goal. Our top priority is to identify safe and affordable rental housing options for new families in Takoma Park.

If you are a home owner and interested in supporting this effort by offering your home or part of your home as a rental property, please review the federal requirements listed below to ensure that it meets the required criteria, so housing is safe, sanitary and in good repair:

  • There must be an appropriate number of bedrooms.
  • All areas and components of the housing (interior and exterior) are free of visible health and safety hazards, and in good repair. (Specifics range from ensuring there is no mold, that emergency escape route(s) have been identified and are accessible, windows and outside doors have working locks, heat, ventilation, lighting and hot and cold running water are adequate. There is no evidence of current rodent or insect infestation.)
  • The kitchen should be equipped with a stove, oven and refrigerator in good repair, and bathrooms should be equipped with sink, flush toilet, and shower or bath in good repair.

If your home is not licensed to rent but meets the criteria, please let us know and we will work with you to coordinate that need with the City of Takoma Park. Please also note that the resettlement agency offers financial support to be used for housing as well. If you are interested in supporting this initiative, please contact Takoma Park City Councilmember Terry Seamens (terrys@takomaparkmd. gov) or Shruti Bhatnagar (

This article appeared in the January 2017 edition of the Takoma Park Newsletter. The Takoma Park Newsletter is available for download here.

Folk Festival kickoff meeting Jan. 24

By Kevin Adler

Although it’s the middle of winter, the Takoma Park Folk Festival is not in hibernation. The Festival’s leadership team will be holding a kickoff meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 24, and all members of the community are invited.

After missing last year for the first time since its creation in 1978, the Festival’s organizers are preparing a full-scale event and considering ways to add new activities. The Festival is scheduled for Sept. 10, 2017, at Takoma Park Middle School.

“We’ve got an energetic group of new volunteers,” said Sarah Lanning, Festival co-chair and a new festival committee member herself. “But there’s always more to do. This meeting will be a great time to share ideas and to tell us how you want to help.”

Applications for performers, crafters, community tables, food vendors and beneficiary groups will be made available early in the year. Discussions have been underway about how the Festival can stay true to its traditions, while also reach out to new audiences, too, said Rob Hinkal, the Festival’s program chair.

As part of its outreach, the Festival will host fundraisers or community events in the spring and summer. “We’re going to be busy,” said Walter Mulbry, committee member.

For information about the exact time and location of the meeting on Jan. 24, check out the Festival’s website at www. or its Facebook page.

This article appeared in the January 2017 edition of the Takoma Park Newsletter. The Takoma Park Newsletter is available for download here.

The Home Stretch: City to roll out Down Payment Assistance Pilot Program

In response to the need to expand access to affordable homeownership, the City set aside $50,000 in the FY17 budget to pilot a down payment assistance program. The program, called “The Home Stretch,” is projected to assist up to five eligible individuals or families in achieving homeownership. Eligibility requirements include:

  • Applicant must be a “first-time homebuyer.” For the purposes of this program, a first-time homebuyer is defined as one who has not owned property in the past five (5) years.
  • Applicant’s income must not exceed 80% of the Area Median Income (AMI) for Montgomery County. For a family of four, for example, the maximum allowable income is $86,600 for 2016. The median income for the County is $108,600.
  • Applicant must successfully complete a homebuyer education course approved by the City of Takoma Park prior to receiving assistance.
  • The home must be located in the City of Takoma Park.
  • The home must serve as the applicant’s principal residence.

Interested applicants must submit an online interest form, available on the City’s website starting Jan. 6, 2017. For additional information, please visit the City’s website.

This article appeared in the January 2017 edition of the Takoma Park Newsletter. The Takoma Park Newsletter is available for download here.

Plastic bag ban now in effect

A long anticipated ban on the use of plastic single-use bags at point of sale went into effect in Takoma Park on December 1. The City Council, known for its progressive stance when it comes to sustainable policies and practices, passed the ordinance earlier this year after much consideration and discussion about the ban.

“We in Takoma Park, Md., have been a national leader in the preservation of natural resources and the environment,” said Councilmember Jarrett Smith who initially proposed the ban. “With this plastic bag ban, our tenacity for all things that protect the environment continues… Sligo Creek, the Chesapeake Bay, and other environmental treasures will always be a priority for our city.”

Mayor Kate Stewart echoed these sentiments: “Takoma Park is proud of its dedication to protect the environment and create a sustainable community. Our deep commitment is exemplified by our willingness to pioneer new programs, stemming back to the early days of recycling and tree protection laws.”

The plastic bag ban does provide a few exceptions, including dry cleaning bags, newspaper bags where newspapers are delivered by the publisher, and non-point of sale plastic bags, such as those used for raw or bulk items like produce, grains, candy and small hardware items. Farmers markets within the city are exempt from the ban for the first year until December 1, 2017, at which point they may provide compostable plastic bags to customers.

The emphasis for the first 90 days of the new ordinance will be on education and outreach to local business. For full text of the ordinance, please visit https://

This article appeared in the January 2017 edition of the Takoma Park Newsletter. The Takoma Park Newsletter is available for download here.