Day laborers wait outside a shopping center in Langley Park at sunrise.
The Washington Post profiles Langley Park, the oft-maligned neighborhood of garden apartments and pupusa trucks at New Hampshire and University Boulevard. It gives a few column-inches to Bill Hanna, one of my old professors at Maryland. To call him devoted to the cause of Langley Park would be a gross understatement. A number of residents are also interviewed, presenting a view of Langley Park we rarely see:
Molin, who moved to Maryland from Mexico, also said he likes that there are so many Latinos in the neighborhood. He drives to Baltimore for work, but wouldn't consider moving there, "because this neighborhood is more familiar," he said in Spanish. "It seems perfect to me how it is."Urban planners often preach the virtues of mixed-income communities as places where people learn to get along with those of different backgrounds. It's one of the reasons why Montgomery County established its Moderately Priced Dwelling Unit (MPDU) program over thirty years ago, though in recent years it's faltered because many developers have opted to put money in a so-called "housing fund" rather than include affordable housing in their projects.
Maria Veator started renting an apartment in Langley Park eight years ago, moving from neighboring Adelphi.
"Here, you can do more if you don't have a car, and the rent was lower," she said in Spanish. "Now, it's high -- $1,100."
She called Langley Park the place where poorer people live -- and it makes her feel at home.
It's unsettling, then, to read that people want to live in neighborhoods with others like them, whether they reside in a McMansion in Chevy Chase or a walk-up in Langley Park. For immigrants new to the country, having a built-in community of people from home could ease the transition to American life. And there can be tension between rich and poor in some mixed-income communities, whether it's getting the cold shoulder in Gaithersburg's Kentlands (a model for this kind of development) or the stabbing of a local punk icon last summer in Briggs Chaney, where half-million-dollar townhouses are going up next to subsidized apartments.
To me, it's just a stronger argument for more integrated communities. An immigrant family in Langley Park may work their way up the income ladder and look to live in a wealthier neighborhood. When they leave, it destabilizes the community - and it's one less example of success for newcomers to see and strive for. Making Langley Park a home for more than just the poorer people may take an act of God, but it's worth creating less transient neighborhoods. That, to me, would be perfect.