Greenbelt, city (1990 pop. 21,096), Prince Georges co., W central Md., a residential suburb of Washington, D.C.; chartered 1937. Greenbelt was planned and built by the federal government as an experimental model community for families of modest income. The huge National Agricultural Research Center borders the city on two sides, and the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center is nearby. The National Park Service maintains Greenbelt Park in the city (see National Parks and Monuments, table).

Greenbelt is a city in Prince George's County, Maryland, United States. Contained within today's City of Greenbelt is the historic, planned community now known locally as "Old Greenbelt" and designated as the Greenbelt Historic District. Greenbelt's population was 21,456 at the 2000 census.


Old Greenbelt was settled in 1937 as a public cooperative community (one of many public works projects referred to by Woody Guthrie as "an experiment in American socialism") in the New Deal Era. The concept was at the same time both eminently practical and idealistically utopian: the federal government would foster an "ideal" self-sufficient cooperative community that would also ease the pressing housing shortage near the nation's capital. Construction of the new town would also create jobs and thus help stimulate the national economic recovery following the Great Depression.

Greenbelt, which provided affordable housing for federal government workers, was one of three "green" towns planned in 1935 by Rexford Guy Tugwell, head of the United States Resettlement Administration, under authority of the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act. (The two other green towns are Greendale, Wisconsin (near Milwaukee) and Greenhills, Ohio (near Cincinnati). A fourth green town, Roosevelt, New Jersey (originally called Homestead), was planned but was not fully developed on the same large scale as Greenbelt. Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, helped Tugwell lay out the town on a site that had formerly consisted largely of tobacco fields. Eleanor Roosevelt also was heavily involved in the first cooperative community designed by the federal government in the New Deal Era, Arthurdale, West Virginia, which sought to better the lives of impoverished laborers by enabling them to create a self-sufficient, and relatively prosperous, cooperative community. Cooperatives in Greenbelt include the Greenbelt News Review, Greenbelt Consumers Coop grocery store, the New Deal Cafe, and the cooperative forming the downtown core of original housing, Greenbelt Homes Incorporated (GHI).

The architectural planning of Greenbelt was innovative, but no less so than the social engineering involved in this federal government project.

Bordering Areas

Geography and Highlights

Greenbelt is located at (39.000460, -76.888325).

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 6.0 square miles (15.6 km²), of which, 6.0 square miles (15.5 km²) of it is land and 0.04 square miles (0.1 km²) of it (0.50%) is water.

Greenbelt's ZIP codes are 20768, 20770, and 20771.

Greenbelt Road is a portion of State Highway 193, a highway connecting several suburban towns, with links to the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and to the nation's capital.

The Goddard Space Flight Center of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration is located there, as is Greenbelt Park.


As of the census of 2000, there were 21,456 people, 9,368 households, and 4,965 families residing in the city. The population density was 3,586.6 people per square mile (1,385.3/km²). There were 10,180 housing units at an average density of 1,701.7/sq mi (657.3/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 39.74% White, 41.35% African American, 0.23% Native American, 12.05% Asian, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 3.11% from other races, and 3.47% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 6.45% of the population.

There were 9,368 households out of which 26.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 33.1% were married couples living together, 15.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 47.0% were non-families. 35.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 5.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.29 and the average family size was 3.00.

In the city the population was spread out with 21.9% under the age of 18, 12.5% from 18 to 24, 39.1% from 25 to 44, 19.8% from 45 to 64, and 6.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 32 years. For every 100 females there were 91.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 88.2 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $46,328, and the median income for a family was $55,671. Males had a median income of $39,133 versus $35,885 for females. The per capita income for the city was $25,236. About 6.0% of families and 10.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 12.7% of those under age 18 and 7.2% of those age 65 or over.


The City of Greenbelt operates under a council-manager government as established by the city charter. The Council consists of five members elected by plurality-at-large voting. From their members, the Council selects the Mayor and the Mayor Pro Tem (who assumes the duties of the Mayor when the Mayor is unavailable). The Council has traditionally chosen the member with the highest vote count to be Mayor, and the member with the second-highest vote count as Mayor Pro Tem. Elections are held every two years, in odd-numbered years, in part to diminish the influence of political parties. Political party affiliations are not an official part of the city election process, and are seldom part of candidate campaigns. Regular council meetings are held on Mondays, twice per month except during July, August, and December, when meetings are held once per month.

The City Council is supported by 14 advisory boards and committees of citizen volunteers. The council appoints a professional city manager responsible for supervising government operations and implementing the policies adopted by the council.

The 2007 election selected the current city council:

  • Mayor: Judith "J" Davis
  • Mayor Pro Tem: Rodney Roberts
  • Council Members: Konrad Herling, Leta Mach, and Edward Putens
  • City Manager: Michael McLaughlin.

Election Reform Proposals

Of the ten incorporated cities in Prince George's County, Greenbelt is one of three that elect their council and mayor through at-large elections. (The others are District Heights and New Carrollton.) The remaining seven cities use combinations of districts and at-large voting to elect their council and mayor.

On 2008-02-28, the Maryland ACLU and Prince George's County NAACP sent a letter to the City Council claiming that Greenbelt's at-large system may not meet the requirements of the section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The 2000 Census indicated that African-Americans constituted 38% of Greenbelt's voting-age population, Asians 13%, and Latinos 6%; however, all members of the city council are white. The letter proposed that the city replace its current election system with single-winner district-based voting, cumulative voting, or choice voting, and indicated that a lawsuit would follow if no reform were implemented. While the present city population is racially diverse, only two African Americans have run for Council in the past 30 years.

In June 2008, the United States Department of Justice opened an investigation into the city's election system.

The city government has hosted two public community meetings on the subject of election reform, in concert with the ACLU, NAACP, and Fairvote: a council work session on June 30 and a forum on August 18.. During the work session, more than 125 participants observed presentations and discussed reform proposals. At the August 18 forum, one of the two African American candidates who had unsuccessfully campaigned stated, "My concern is that people don’t get off their royal behinds. By going to meetings I got what I wanted and found out I had power as a citizen.”


Greenbelt is served by Prince George's County Public Schools.

The city is served by four elementary schools:

  • Greenbelt Elementary School (Greenbelt)
  • Magnolia Elementary School (unincorporated Prince George's County, Lanham address)
  • Springhill Lake Elementary School (Greenbelt) and
  • Saint Hugh's Parochial School

All of Greenbelt is served by Greenbelt Middle School and Eleanor Roosevelt High School, a highly-rated magnet school; both schools are in the city.


Two major highways pass through and have interchanges in Greenbelt: I-95 and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. In addition, Greenbelt is served by the Greenbelt Metro Station, which is the northern terminus of the Green Line of the Washington Metro system and along the Camden line of the MARC Train, using the original Baltimore and Ohio Railroad track route between Washington and Baltimore.


See also

Further reading

  • Cathy D. Knepper (2001). Greenbelt, Maryland: A Living Legacy of the New Deal (Creating the North American Landscape). The Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • Mary Lou Williamson (editor) (1987). Greenbelt: History of a New Town, 1937-1987. The Donning Company.

External links

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