When a pops up, the conversation frequently turns to issues like traffic and aesthetic appropriateness. But those debates are fueled and informed by a host of other cultural and economic factors, some easier to talk about than others.
, Feb. 12 at Busboys and Poets tried to broach a new conversation about local development issues, with a focus on the "tough questions" which they bring up.
Moderated by Hyattsville's and city resident Shannon Wyss, questions about race, class and ethnicity were posed to an audience of about a dozen. The conversation also tackled the ever changing, ever interactive media environment in which local decisions are framed, debated and decided.
And while may not have been an intended focus of the discussion, they were brought up at length by participants who searched for a way to balance the sometimes conflicting goals of walkability and ease of vehicular travel.
For Hollingsworth, the most difficult question to arise out of the Cafritz project and other development news was how a community can have a constructive dialogue across economic and cultural lines.
After last night's discussion, she doesn't think she's yet heard an answer to that question.
Hollingsworth noted ethnocentrism which has framed online (and in-person) discussions about the demise of , which overtly markets to a low-income and immigrant clientele, in its place.
Hollingsworth said that when she reads the Washington Post comment sections on local news stories, she feels disconnected to the vitriol frequently expressed within.
But when that same vitriol creeps into local media, said Hollingsworth, noting Patch and the HOPE Listserv, it causes her to question the true character of the community she calls home.
"Those are my neighbors writing those things," said Hollingsworth to the audience.
Hyattsville resident Barbara Morris agreed that comment sections can get nasty. She said she was so disgusted with the t that she felt compelled to add her two cents in support of the controversial legislation.
"Posting a first and last name should be mandatory on these sites," said Morris.
Divided by Lines
Justin Fair, who works for the , said that he was surprised by the amount of sectionalism which creeps into development debates in the area. He always viewed the municipalities which stretch up and down Route 1 as part of a symbiotic whole.
"I didn't really see it as different towns," said Fair. "But I saw people place a lot of importance to what goes where with regard to border lines…people are very concerned about the stores that they keep."
Susan Older-Mondeel, a new Hyattsville resident with a dream of opening her own business in the area, said that she was open to new development in the area.
"I support anything that comes in that makes the area more of a destination," said Older-Mondreel.
Hyattsville resident Nancy Dimaio didn't see the need for a new grocery store like much less one which could generate traffic issues.
"What are we going to do about transportation?" asked Dimaio rhetorically.
For Hyattsville resident Jose Ballesteros, the concerns over traffic seemed at odds with stated
"I've been really, really fascinated by peoples interest in traffic," said Ballesteros. "Typically places that have walkable communities on the east coast also have significant traffic problems."
Wyss also noted this dichotomy.
"We want to be a walkable community, but we live in a very car centric society," said Wyss. "How do we want to support that?"
Editors Note: An earlier version of this story attributed comments about "racism" in development debates to Hollingsworth. That comment was instead made by a member of the audience. Hollingsworth only noted "ethnocentrism" in those debates.
Clarification: Justin Fair writes in to clarify the role under which he attended the event. He currently works as the artist in residence at the Gateway Arts Center in Brentwood.
"I finish my residency at the end of this month, and while I am also the Content Manager for the MyGatewayArts.org website, I aimed to attend the get-together on my own and my arts blog's behalf (Soulstrong Arts Blog). It just seemed that my work with the Hyattsville & Gateway CDC's MyGatewayArts.org website was of interest."