Friday, May 7, 2021

Sydney's Burger coming to Wheaton Plaza

Summer is almost here, and that means it's time for burgers. Wheaton Plaza has the same idea, as Sydney's Burger is "opening soon." Signage is already installed inside and outside the mall. Sydney's Burger is promising you'll "love that taste," as well as free gelato for kids 1:00-2:00 PM on Saturdays. Prepare yourself for the incredible taste of Sydney's Burger!

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Montgomery County activists celebrate failure of "racist" cemetery bill in Maryland House

Macedonia Baptist Church on River Road
in Bethesda, where some past members are buried
in the nearby Moses African Cemetery

The Bethesda African Cemetery Coalition celebrated a win in Annapolis Wednesday, as the Maryland House of Delegates declined to bring a controversial cemetery preservation bill to a vote as the 2021 session ended the previous day. HB 1099 was designed to provide funding for a statewide study of African-American burial grounds, and allow specific stakeholders to apply for a separate state grant for the purpose of preserving and commemorating a black cemetery. It had support from many established preservation groups in the state, and initially appeared likely to pass when the session began.

Moses African Cemetery in Bethesda is a prominent example of a black cemetery that was erased from the map in the mid-20th century. The grave markers were bulldozed or removed when the cemetery came into the possession of new landowners. In the late 1960s, the cemetery and many gravesites were further desecrated during the construction of the Westwood Tower apartments. Witnesses at the time have recounted that many remains within the footprint of the building were illegally relocated elsewhere on the property in a mass grave. Remaining graves were paved over for a parking lot for the building.

Such stories are common at African-American burial grounds across Montgomery County, Maryland and the nation. Sadly, many of these stories do not even come to light as development literally paves over the past. 

Even the historic African-American community that existed around Moses cemetery until the 1960s had been erased from County history, until I researched and brought it to light during the BETCO/Hoyt Property redevelopment hearings at the Planning Board in 2011. At the time, I warned the Planning Board, the County Council and the National Capital Planning Commission that there would likely be a cemetery related to that community that had been hidden in the area, and many historical artifacts to be located. 

Those government bodies did not listen. In 2014, the cemetery location was finally pinpointed, thanks to citizens who were contemporary witnesses to it, just as an out-of-state developer prepared to construct a new building and parking garage atop it. Those plans have been temporarily halted, but only thanks to years of effort and protest by cemetery advocates. But no further action has been taken by any branch or level of government to investigate, restore or commemorate the lost community, cemetery and the illegal desecration there.

The BACC, which is now leading efforts to restore and commemorate Moses cemetery, opposed HB 1099 because it "would have paid white preservation groups and their chosen consultants to entrench white supremacist control of historic Black burial grounds and sow division among their descendant communities, all while the desecration of Black burial grounds and cemeteries like Moses continued unabated." Declaring the bill "racist," BACC organized opposition and testimony against the bill as it moved through the legislative process this winter and spring.

When the bill was not brought to a vote Tuesday, the BACC celebrated the successful effort. "Defeating the bill seemed impossible in the face of its support from powerful politicians, developers, and white preservation establishment, bolstered by a calculated media misinformation campaign, but this grassroots mobilization turned delegates against it and killed the bill," the BACC said in a press release yesterday. "H.B. 1099 would have passed without this action, which demonstrates again that the people will always win."

One active front on the Moses cemetery battle is the construction of a self-storage facility on land directly adjacent to the cemetery's property line behind the McDonald's on River Road. That work recently resumed. Concern that remains may have been buried or illegally reburied beyond the cemetery boundaries led cemetery advocates to oppose construction of the facility prior to a thorough archaeological study of the self storage site. 

Montgomery County overruled that request. The County has been so strongly opposed to any archaeological investigation of the cemetery itself, that it not only blocked every attempt to achieve an independent survey, but even acquired a part of the cemetery to prevent any further investigation though private landowners who might cooperate in such efforts.

The self storage developer has retained a credentialed archaeologist, who has determined no remains or funerary objects were encountered during excavation of that site so far. BACC has dismissed that assessment as biased, and continues to hold protests near the construction site. Another protest is scheduled for Wednesday, May 12, 2021 at 5:00 PM at 5204 River Road.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Strong-arm robbery reported at Wheaton bar

Montgomery County police responded to a report of a strong-arm robbery at a Wheaton bar early Monday morning. The incident was reported at a bar in the 11200 block of Georgia Avenue around 1:00 AM, according to crime data.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Hoover-Fisher Florist relocates to Kensington

Hoover-Fisher Florist
has moved to Kensington. Formerly in the Woodmoor Shopping Center in the Four Corners neighborhood of Silver Spring, the family-owned business has relocated to 4100 Howard Avenue, on the west side of Connecticut Avenue near the CSX tracks. Celebrating over 60 years in business, the florist shop has more space, as well as a gift shop with non-floral items for all occasions.

Monday, May 3, 2021

Armed robbery in Silver Spring

Montgomery County police responded to a report of an armed robbery in the Clifton Park Village area of Silver Spring this past Saturday night. The robbery was reported in the parking lot of an apartment complex in the 9300 block of Piney Branch Road near New Hampshire Avenue around 10:45 PM, according to crime data. A knife was the weapon used in the robbery.

Friday, April 30, 2021

High winds cause power outages in Silver Spring, Wheaton, Kensington, Colesville, Kemp MIll

Hundreds of Pepco customers in eastern Montgomery County are without power as gusty winds buffet the DC metro area. High winds with gusts into the 50 MPH range are possible through early Saturday morning.

The largest power outage is in the area around Wheaton Regional Park, where 302 customers are in the dark at this hour. Pepco estimates power will be restored there by 9:00 PM tonight.  Less than five customers are currently impacted by an outage in the Kemp Mill neighborhood. Similar small-scale outages are currently being reported in Kensington, the Goodacre Knolls/Long Branch area of Silver Spring, and Colesville.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Olazzo to close in Silver Spring

Here's some really bad news for diners in Silver Spring: Olazzo will close its Silver Spring location at 8235 Georgia Avenue at the end of this week, the owners have announced on Facebook. The only consolation I can offer is that Olazzo's Bethesda location will continue to operate at 7921 Norfolk Avenue, in downtown Bethesda's Woodmont Triangle neighborhood.