By Kit Slack
On the sweltering afternoon of Aug. 11, a small group of older protesters marched slowly around Friendship Arms, a Hyattsville apartment building that provides housing for seniors and those with disabilities.
Armed with a bullhorn and carrying signs that said “Senior lives matter,” they yelled, “Talk is cheap, so is management!” and “What do we want? A new roof! When do we want it? Now!”
Following a roof fire in October of 2020, 26 residents of the building’s top floors were displaced.
Unfinished repairs to the roof means no air conditioning in common areas and the hallways, making everyday activities like taking out the trash or waiting for the elevator a hardship for elderly residents.
Now, almost a year after the fire, half of the residents who were displaced have moved to apartments on lower floors as they have become available, according to the building’s management. Another three individuals died before they were able to return. Two have moved away, and eight are still living in hotels or with family as they wait to come home.
Matt Brubrick, the president of SHP Management, which owns Friendship Arms, said on Sept. 1 that management has met with residents since the rally, and he hopes everyone who is still displaced will be able to return home by the end of the month. “We are pushing as hard as we can,” he said.
Brubrick said that the company had hoped to return tenants to their apartments several times over the last year, only to have the county add new requirements.
Renee White from the office of County Councilmember Deni Taveras, who represents District 2, which includes Hyattsville, attended the Aug. 11 rally. She and Taveras also attended an event with Hyattsville mayoral candidate Joseph Solomon at the building in late April, before he lost the mayoral race in May.
Taveras’ office did not respond to several inquiries from the Hyattsville Life & Times in May and June about her advocacy for tenants in the building. At the August rally, White said that since the building is in the City of Hyattsville, Hyattsville officials should be held responsible for conditions there.
A public information officer from Prince George’s County Department of Permitting, Inspection and Enforcement, in response to a Hyattsville Life & Times’ inquiry about the progress of the repairs, also said that based on the address of the facility, the City of Hyattsville would be responsible for enforcement.
However, representatives of both SHP Management and the City of Hyattsville confirmed that no outstanding city permitting issues are preventing the completion of the repairs.
Hyattsville Mayor Kevin Ward said, “The City of Hyattsville continues to be in contact with all parties involved to monitor the situation and help residents return as soon as it is safe to do so.”
William Brown, a senior vice president of operations for the building’s management company, said on Sept. 3 that a county inspection was newly scheduled for Sept. 7.