Where We Live

Deep Roots With a Global Reach

Wilfredo Cruz, shown with his son Hairo, was born in Honduras and moved to the neighborhood two years ago. He paid $270,000 for the house; he estimates that it is now worth $400,000.
Wilfredo Cruz, shown with his son Hairo, was born in Honduras and moved to the neighborhood two years ago. He paid $270,000 for the house; he estimates that it is now worth $400,000. "I've been in this house for two years," he said. "I feel good about living here." (By Tony Glaros For The Washington Post)

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By Tony Glaros
For The Washington Post
Saturday, January 13, 2007

For 62 of her 64 years, Ann Cochran has lived on Roanoke Street in the West Hyattsville subdivision of Green Meadows.

She grew up in one house, a Colonial. And she has spent all 27 years of her married life in another house, a renovated five-bedroom Colonial almost in the shadow of the first.

"When I like something," Cochran said, "I keep it forever."

Green Meadows, off Ager Road just south of East West Highway, is a subdivision of modest, single-family brick Colonials, ranches and bungalows built during the post-World War II housing boom. The neighborhood is about a mile from to Metro's West Hyattsville and Prince George's Plaza stations on the Green Line and a short drive to the College Park campus of the University of Maryland.

One of Cochran's old neighbors, Don Worsham, also spent most of his life on Roanoke Street in a house he shared with his parents and seven siblings. "When we were in high school, everyone in Green Meadows would hang out at the Mighty Mo on Queens Chapel Road," recalled Worsham, 60, a U.S. Army civilian worker who now lives in Laurel. "We would show off our muscle cars. The waitresses were on roller skates. You would put your speaker outside the car and they'd skate out with your order."

Cochran, who is retired after a 30-year career at the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, recalled that once the neighborhood had a mostly white, blue-collar demographic. Gradually, a much broader mix has evolved, she said, with the arrival of African American and Hispanic residents.

Wilfredo Cruz, 32, a carpenter born in Honduras, is one of those newer residents. As Lucky, his family's pet rooster, frantically crisscrossed the back yard, Cruz leaned over the fence around his yard, opposite the mile-long community park. "I've been in this house for two years," he said. "I feel good about living here."

He paid $270,000 for the house; he estimates that it is now worth $400,000. Cruz, a father of three, said he enjoys his neighbors, many of whom came from Mexico, El Salvador and Guatemala.

He's concerned, though, about crime. "It's a problem," he said in broken English. "During the past year, a lot of cars have been stolen. We need more police to come around."

Green Meadows is affordable for many first-time home buyers, said J. Alfonso Flores, an agent with Fairfax Realty in Silver Spring. A Cape Cod, he said, runs $327,000 to $375,000. The same model in Montgomery County, he said, would cost about $80,000 more.

Flores said that most of his clients, like him, are originally from Central America. They have learned about the neighborhood through word of mouth. "They usually have a relative or a friend living nearby, and they feel more comfortable."

In August, Rosa L. Parks Elementary School opened on Ager Road. The school, which is within walking distance of Green Meadows, has 700 students, 65 percent of them Hispanic, 30 percent African American and the remainder white. "We are a hut in a global village," said Tracey Adesegun, the principal.

Plans include workshops to help parents understand immunization requirements or how to help their children with homework.

Another service is a personal goal of Adesegun's. "I will walk the students home, as opposed to giving them a ride. I want to be visible in the community. Let the children and the parents know I embrace the community."

At 9 a.m., Morel Mowatt was out for his morning walk through Green Meadows. Mowatt, 66, has lived in a brick Colonial in Green Meadows for a dozen years. "The people here love," said Mowatt, 66, a native of Jamaica who is retired from the Washington Hospital Center. "If someone goes to my house and I'm not there, the neighbor will tell them I'm not there and that they will have to leave."

Across Ager Road, next to the aging Green Meadows Shopping Center, Ransford Bucknor was preparing for another day dishing up Jamaican favorites including salt fish, oxtail, and stewed peas and rice at Jerk Hill restaurant. Bucknor, who converted the former gas station into a restaurant in 2003, said he attracts Jamaicans living in Green Meadows and beyond. "We sell a lot of patties," a popular Jamaican dish, he said. "People like to walk over from the neighborhood."

As Cochran stood in her front yard, staring at the awnings that grace her childhood home a few yards away, she shook her head and remarked that having spent more than six decades on the same street has given her uncommonly deep roots. "Yes, I've seen people come and go, but for me, this house is like an old shoe. It's just . . . nice."


© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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