BY SAM STERN — According to the 2015 community survey conducted by the ETC Institute, the majority of Hyattsville residents are satisfied with the City of Hyattsville and its future direction. The survey’s findings, presented at the Sept. 21 Hyattsville City Council meeting, were positive in most areas, with 85 percent of respondents expressing satisfaction with Hyattsville as a place to live.
Three areas topped Hyattsville’s “Priorities for Investment.” According to the survey, residents were most concerned about traffic flow, sidewalk and street conditions, and the quality of economic development. The city contracted ETC to gauge satisfaction with major city services, compare results with a similar 2011 survey, and determine what actions should be taken in the future to improve quality of life for residents. An ETC representative said survey data was gathered data from 714 residents through telephone conversations and email.
Ratings in 25 of 46 categories were higher in 2015 when compared to 2011. Compared to citizens in other cities surveyed, the polled individuals rated Hyattsville as 12 percent and 10 percent above the regional and national averages for perception of the city moving in the right direction, respectively.
Despite overall levels of satisfaction, certain issues elicited concern from those polled. Compared to the national average, Hyattsville was ranked below average as a place to raise children and to retire.
According to Councilmember Paula Perry (Ward 4), there is sometimes friction between the needs of a growing city and its senior population. “You have to come up with a balance of the economic development. … How you balance that with older residents I don’t know … but I know you need more of a balance,” she said.
Council President Eduardo Haba (Ward 4) attributed the subpar child-rearing perception to the quality of education available in the city. “When it comes to children, one of the main things we should be considering is their schooling,” Haba said. He said the city has little control over the school system but expressed surprise at the perception of Hyattsville as a below average place to retire. “I think Hyattsville does a lot to work with the seniors … but this means we need to look into the area and see what we can do,” he said.
According to the survey, residents of Ward 4 and Ward 5 — West Hyattsville — are least satisfied with their safety. Both lighting and crime have been hot topics on local listservs and at council meetings in recent months, highlighted by a recent spate of attempted sexual assaults near the West Hyattsville metro. “Improving lighting and our sidewalks create an environment of welcome and an increased perception of safety,” said Haba.
Perry said there is a need for a greater police presence combined with better street lighting to help combat crime and the perceived lack of safety in Wards 4 and 5. “More police cars are always going to deter. We also need to upgrade our street lighting, especially where we have more people walking to and from the Metro,” she said.
“To the best of our ability, we [the Council] need to make it safer to walk. And that’s where crime is a bigger perception, because we have so many people walking,” Perry said.
Haba said he believes that the city is already taking the necessary steps to address the physical conditions of Hyattsville’s streets and sidewalks. “We are already working to address some of those areas… there is a $60,000 sidewalk program. In addition to that, there was funding requested for sidewalk improvements in the West Hyattsville area,” Haba said.
Haba stressed the importance of a community-wide effort to address the issues raised by the survey. “Everything cannot be relegated to police. We need to come at safety concerns from different angles … so everybody can walk through the city and feel safe,” he said.