Blackstone Parks Conservancy
Doing and Undoing
On Thursday, September 29, at midday, seven volunteers from AIPSO Company in Johnston were hard at work repairing damage inflicted by nature and humans in the center section of the Blackstone Park Conservation District high above the Seekonk River. Such maintenance is a normal part of Blackstone Parks Conservancy (BPC) volunteers’ job, which is – with the Providence Parks Department – to keep the Blackstone Parks in good fettle for thousands of visitors to enjoy.
The AIPSO volunteers said they enjoy working outdoors and, indeed, they went at fence mending and stake pounding and weeding out invasive wisteria with gusto. They also hoed out dirt that had accumulated above water bars, an important step in reducing the erosion that depletes the park. Water bars shunt the streams that appear on trails during storms off to one side to seep into thirsty soil.
A walker passing by the fence fixers remarked, “This place is a godsend!” Which prompts Jim, the AIPSO team leader, who grew up on a farm, to add that his father was astonished to find a 45-acre semi-wild park in the city.
Like the 120 Moses Browns students who showed up in early September to tackle invasive plant species, the AIPSO volunteers were taking a leap of faith, saying, in effect, “This is worth my precious time because it matters.”
As for Moses Brown, this was the second year in a row that upper classmen gave their service day to Blackstone Park, this time sharing the wealth with Neutaconkanut Hill, Blackstone’s sister park on the western side of the city. Spreading out in small groups led by teachers and BPC volunteers, the students ignored the wilting heat and humidity to go after the invasive plants that threaten to overwhelm some of the park’s native plants. The latter are important to the ecology here.
Such events supplement the work of science teachers, who arm the students with folders packed with information. Adults, too, pick up important facts: how fencing is needed to prevent trampling of plants, how plants are essential to hold the highly erodible soil and to nurture pollinators.
On September 29 on the riverfront below, at the same time AIPSO volunteers were on their knees pounding in stakes up on the plateau, a Massachusetts woman with a conservation license plate on her Prius was stuffing her car with armloads of asters and goldenrod from the woods by York Pond. An alarmed park visitor who had come to watch birds and photograph bees snapped pictures of the thief and her license plate, which the Conservancy was advised to pass on to local police.
The problem with removing plants from the Conservation District is that, while great progress has been made in the last few years in populating bare soil with native plants, much remains to be done. Backed by the Department of Environmental Management and the Coastal Resources Management Council, the BPC is encouraging goldenrod and asters to spread in areas where volunteers have recently removed invasive plants. At a time when bee populations are suffering, it may be that every aster counts.
If you would like to volunteer to help keep the parks clean and healthy, and to support native plants, please contact us at the website below. It takes few to cause harm, and many more to make the parks whole again. Healthy Urban Green Space for All!
Please send East Side Market receipts to the following address. Blackstone Parks Conservancy, P.O. Box 603141, Providence, RI 02906. 270-3014, BlackstoneParksConservancy.org, BlackstoneParksConservancy@gmail.com. –Jane Peterson
Fox Point Neighborhood Association
Events this Month
FPNA Board Meeting, 7pm, Monday, November 7 at the Vartan Gregorian Bath House Community Room, 455 Wickenden Street. The public is welcome.
Governor Calls for RIDOT Meeting
The Save Gano Gateway Committee of the Fox Point Neighborhood Association (FPNA) has secured a meeting with the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, RIDOT, to explore the best options for completing the Gano Gateway, the last construction project of the I-195 Replacement Highway.
At publication deadline, FPNA had received a letter from RIDOT asking Gano Gateway stakeholders to attend a meeting to address the issues, “outlined in your letter addressed to Governor Gina Raimondo, dated September 14, 2016.”
The Governor’s Office responded to that letter from FPNA, saying that RIDOT is fiscally constrained and does not have funds for the original $2.9 million project.
“That said, I heard your concerns regarding the new proposed $1 million project,” Lisa Vura-Weis, assistant chief of staff at the Governor’s Office, said today. “We’d be happy to engage in additional dialogue on how funds might be identified from other sources, such as the City of Providence, or how the $1 million project could be refined within budgetary constraints to meet community needs.”
RIDOT “Refined Plan” Questioned
Vura-Weis is referring to a “Refined Plan,” which FPNA received from RIDOT in late September that does not address the 90-degree turn at the intersection of India and Gano Street, nor the installation of lighted and landscaped India Point Park parking lots under the Washington Bridge.
The budget of the refined plan was set at $1 million because that’s what was left after RIDOT removed $1.9 million to help pay for the Pedestrian Bridge over the Providence River, John Rousseau, FPNA executive secretary and Save Gano Gateway committee chair, points out. “Traffic flow is seriously hampered by this bottleneck for East Side commuters on Gano Street and for event goers at India Point Park.”
“While we aimed for more direct intervention by the Governor’s Office, this meeting is a concession of sorts,” Rousseau maintains. Committee members Sam Bell and Sharon Steele, who worked successfully on the Stop the Stadium Campaign, agree. “This action from the governor’s office is how government works,” Steele says.
FPNA Explores Funding Options
“We are glad the Governor’s Office has left other funding options on the table,” Rousseau continues. “We made clear that we do not want the remaining Gano Gateway budget of $1 million to be depleted by any so-called ‘refined’ construction plan that includes the dangerous intersection.” RIDOT’s original 2011 Gano Gateway design utilizes a different span of the bridge and calls for complete re-alignment of Gano and India streets, Rousseau continues.
“Mayor Jorge Elorza endorsed the Save Gano Gateway efforts at a re-dedication ceremony for the Roger Williams Landing Park Monument, September 22,” he notes.
Bell says there are many funding options to explore. “Perhaps the scope of certain bridge projects could be slightly reduced, like the proposed Red Bridge replacement or the 6-10 Boulevard Plan,” he suggested. “Also, finding some sort of revenue within the gateway project land, itself might be an option.”
“There are some funds available within the I-195 Commission that possibly might be accessed, as well,” he continued. “And, then there’s always the funding option of the $1.9 million being advanced through the state legislature.” State Rep. Chris Blazejewski told FPNA that he and Sen. Gayle Goldin are planning to co-sponsor legislation to completely fund the Gano Gateway project. Fox Point Neighborhood Association, P.O. Box 603177, Providence, RI 02906. 270-7121, FPNA.net, FPNA@cox.net. –John Rousseau
Summit Neighborhood Association
Panel Says Poverty Causes Panhandling
The recent surge in panhandling in Providence is directly caused by a rise in poverty, a panel of experts said September 21, but is also linked to the publicized curbs on the city’s ordnance against it.
Appearing before almost 40 people at a public forum at Summit Commons, 99 Hillside Avenue, sponsored by SNA, the speakers were: Jeffrey Dana, Providence city solicitor; Linda Katz, policy director of the Economic Progress Institute; Rabbi Alan Flam, executive director of the Helen Hudson Foundation for Homeless America; and Diana Burdett, executive director of PICA, a charitable nonprofit that runs the state’s largest food pantry. They were joined by Cliff Wood of the Downtown Parks Conservancy. The session was organized and moderated by Gayle Gifford, president of Cause & Effect Inc., an advisor to nonprofits, and assisted by RI Rep. Aaron Regunberg.
Flam summed up the cause of panhandling, by saying it is a problem of poverty. “People don’t have enough money to live,” he said, adding that it’s “not a question of homelessness, it’s poverty.”
Katz supported that assessment, pointing out that 27.9% of the people in Providence live at or below the poverty level, which for a family of one parent and two children is $20,000. She cited the shift away from manufacturing jobs at which a high school graduate could still make a living, but now the pay from available jobs is “not enough to support a family,” even with available benefits.
Getting those benefits, Burdett said, is often difficult, with children and the elderly being the most affected. “Many people wouldn’t be able to eat if they couldn’t access food pantries,” she asserted, adding that many also can’t access the health care system so they self-medicate with alcohol or drugs. “It’s a full-time job being homeless,” she said, and that makes them vulnerable.
In an answer to a question about who seems to be organizing the panhandlers, Wood echoed Burdett’s theme by saying the victims of poverty are targets of predators who steal what little help is given. He had said earlier that the city’s decision to not enforce the law against panhandling “opened the floodgates for petty criminal activity” downtown, prompting an increase in police presence. He said there is absolutely no criminalization of panhandling, but there is no city tolerance for petty crime. He said the downtown activity “has nothing to do with the homeless situation.”
Dana added that the city is working to get more housing and shelters available during the day and is cooperating with other agencies to develop jobs for the homeless. He stated that many anti-panhandling laws have been struck down by the US Supreme Court as infringements on the First Amendment and that “enforcing an anti-panhandling law is clearly not legal.” But, he added, “Just because panhandling is okay, that doesn’t mean crime is okay.” He said “we’re not going to arrest our way to a solution of poverty.”
Flam gave this guidance to residents who “clearly want to help people in distress.” “Don’t give money to the panhandler,” he said. “It’s not about giving to the individual on the corner – give to the organizations that are working on the problem.”
Community Joins in Yard Sale
The Summit neighborhood held a community-wide yard sale on September 25 – and everybody came.
“From the vantage point at my house,” one participant said, “I could visibly see neighbors out and about, talking to each other, sharing stories and getting to know one another. And we brought a lot of people in from other areas too, so they could see what a fun and useful event it was.”
That “useful event” was centered on the parking lot of Citizens Bank on Hope Street, where the SNA distributed maps showing the 48 locations where residents had set up their own sale tables. Added to that were about ten people who brought their valued items to the core location, according to Britt Page, the SNA board member who organized the event.
Topping off the day were seven merchants along Hope who had special sales to coordinate with the yard sales, plus a truck from Indie Cycle parked in the CVS lot across the street to accept unused or unwanted electronics so they could be disposed of in a responsible manner.
The yard sale is an annual event that the SNA sponsors, but in previous years it had been at the Church of the Redeemer at 655 Hope Street. This year it involved the entire neighborhood. “We’re building community, not just in Summit, but potentially in areas beyond our reach,” said Dean Weinberg, SNA president.
Residents Invited To Directors Meetings
The SNA board of directors meets at 7pm on the third Monday of every month in the cafeteria of Summit Commons, 99 Hillside Avenue. The sessions are open and neighborhood residents are encouraged to attend. Summit Neighborhood Association, PO Box 41092, Providence RI 02940. 489-7078, SNA.Providence.RI.us, SNA@SNA.Providence.RI.us. –Kerry Kohring
At press-time, our Wayland Square group was preparing a forum for local election candidates at our last scheduled meeting of 2016, on Wednesday, October 26 beginning just after 7pm (see above).
The only races on Providence ballots in November (apart from those for the White House and the US House of Representatives) are for seats in the Rhode Island General Assembly (state legislature). The general election ballot will also include several state or municipal bond issues, initiatives and questions.
On our part of the East Side (where State Sen. Gayle Goldin is unopposed for re-election), each of our two state representatives will be challenged in November.
Rep. Chris Blazejewski, a Democrat who represents the part between Angell Street and Fox Point/India Point, will face Mark Teoli of the Republican Party.
Veteran Rep. Edith Ajello, another Democrat representing the area running north from Angell Street roughly to Brown Stadium, is being challenged by an independent candidate, Ray Mathieu.
All four of these candidates had agreed to speak at our forum.
New Facebook Group
If you belong to Facebook, visit our brand-new Facebook page at TinyURL.com/WaylandSquare
Check our Yahoo! Group’s public message board (below) to stay abreast of current local events and issues. Or join the group to receive regular announcements by e-mail, including select notices of neighborhood meetings, civic affairs and cultural events.
Groups.Yahoo.com/Group/WaylandSquare –David Kolsky
Mount Hope Neighborhood Association
Kudos to Raymond Two Hawks Watson, former executive director of the Mount Hope Neighborhood Association (MHNA) on his newest mission with the Providence Cultural Equity Initiative, a cultural diversity consulting firm which will be promoting cultural tourism in Rhode Island. God bless you in your new endeavor.
Hopefully you were able to attend the Big Drum Pow Wow, hosted by the New England Native American Cultural Week on October 24-25, at the Roger Williams National Park on North Main Street. If not, march to the beat of a different drummer and attend next year’s event. We’ll see you there!
October 1 was the grand opening of a WIC satellite office at the MHNA at 199 Camp Street. For information, call 521-8830, or just drop in. It’s just another addition to helping the people from the neighborhood connect with the resources they need.
Helen Duke’s next Hope Community meeting will be on November 7 from 6-7pm. Come on out and voice your concerns on issues you feel need to be addressed. Your voice is important, and good things are already coming together.
CHW and Plan 4 Health will be hosting the first annual Community Harvest Festival at the Billy Taylor Park at the corner of Camp and Cypress streets on Saturday October 29 from noon-3pm. The rain date is Saturday, November 5 at the same time. This festival is a culmination of the new Community Garden at Billy Taylor Park and the Bin Garden workshop. Come on out and get some gardening tips from our new resident gardeners Elisa and Manny or bring your own. Either way it will be a good time. Activities for kids are planned, including face painting and more. For more information on the garden workshops, follow the Mount Hope Community Workers on Facebook or email us at MountHopeWorkers@gmail.com.
If you missed the pot luck gathering that was held at the Church of the Redeemer on September 11, you missed out on a great opportunity to meet some very engaging people and interesting conversation with some very fine neighbors. Keep an eye out here for an update on the next one – sooner than later we hope, as there was some really good food!
For updates on events or current information on CHW/Plan 4 Health, visit the Plan 4 Health Mount Hope Facebook page. Who knows, you might just be the next CHW Community Health Worker!
Happy Rosh Hashanah to all of our friends in the Mount Hope Area and throughout the city, state and the whole world. And a happy Thanksgiving to everyone. FYI – turkey makes you sleepy, so don’t eat and drive.
Waterman Street Dog Park
The Waterman Street Dog Park is open! Come on down, and check it out (with or without your furry friends)! The park is open from sunrise to sunset. Parking is available, but the park is also easy to access on foot.
Before bringing your dog to the park, make sure that he or she has an up-to-date rabies tag and a collar with identification. Dogs in heat and puppies less than four months old are not permitted. Any waste must be cleaned up by human companions, and no more than three dogs per person are allowed.
The Dog Park Association will be continuing our work to maintain and improve the park. We are hoping to partner with Moses Brown to work on forest stewardship and we’re always looking for new community partners. We meet the second Tuesday of every month at 7pm at Books on the Square. New faces are always welcome! Waterman Street Dog Park Association, 19 Luzon Avenue, Providence, RI 02906. WatermanStDogPark@gmail.com, WatermanStDogPark.org. –Sam Bell
College Hill Neighborhood Association
New film premieres in Prospect Terrace
About forty East Side residents gathered at a Fall Neighborhood Get-Together that was held at Prospect Terrace on September 29, sponsored by the College Hill Neighborhood Association (CHNA). Along with enjoying wonderful goodies compliments of some of the nearby businesses (Thank you, thank you, thank you Whole Foods, East Side Marketplace, Bottles Fine Wines and Flatbread Pizza), attendees got an opportunity to exchange ideas with Wendy Nilsson, Parks Superintendent, on our ongoing efforts to partner with the city on a major upgrade of Prospect Terrace, one of the true “Jewels of the City” that is in need of a little polishing.
A first draft of a film currently in production was shown that presented several College Hill residents explaining why the project is so important. Backed by some wonderful footage prepared and assembled by Luminous Productions, the short promotional film was well received. Special thanks to Bryan Roberts and Ryan Buttie, their chief honchos, for making it happen. Those of us in attendance loved the creativity of their production and look forward to using the finished product as we begin the process of tightening up Sara Bradford’s design plans and raising the funds necessary to make the project come to life. Anyone who would like to get involved in the planning, fund raising, or just helping us spread the word should please contact Barry and Elaine Fain at 751-7078. We need all the help we can get and welcome your participation for what will be an important and worthwhile endeavor.
Thayer Street Updates
The Thayer Street District Management Authority (TSDMA) would like to extend a hug and a thank you to everyone who attended the Third Annual Thayer Street Art Festival on Sunday, September 25. The weather gods were shining for the third year in a row, Special thanks to Wheeler School for their beautiful chalk at the cross streets of Thayer and Meeting and for providing chalk for the public to join in with the students.
The TSDMA will be welcoming several new businesses to Thayer Street over the next several months. Make sure to follow us for details on their grand openings on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @thayerstreetpvd or #Ilovethayer, #thayerstreet, #shoponthayer.
For more information about becoming a member of CHNA (and we hope you will) please contact us a one of the following: College Hill Neighborhood Association, PO Box 2442, Providence, RI 02906. 633-5230. College HillNA.com. CHNA@CollegeHillNA.com –Barry Fain