Neighborhood News March 2017

Neighborhood News is a space that East Side Monthly makes available to community organizations free of charge. The content does not necessarily reflect the views of the editors of this publication.

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Neighborhood News is a space that East Side Monthly makes available to community organizations free of charge. The content does not necessarily reflect the views of the editors of this publication.

Summit Neighborhood Association

Plots Thicken In Garden Development
The long-awaited plots in the community garden in the Summit Avenue city park finally have real people dedicated to bringing them to fruition.

At a public meeting on January 10 at Summit Commons, 99 Hillside Avenue, bylaws were adopted, a governing board was elected and people who wanted plots received their allocations. There were a total of 25 households that wanted space and there were 25 locations available in the current design of the garden, so a proposed lottery for plots did not have to be held. If more space is deemed available in the future, more gardeners could be recruited.

The next step is for the group to plan the actual construction of the raised beds, so details of that process are being worked out. A follow-up meeting of the governing council was held January 25 at which some modifications to the bylaws were agreed to and a communication system set up. The slate of officers elected at the initial meeting include Nancy Buron as chair, Read Porter as vice chair with Doug Itkin and Annie Voss-Altman to be secretary and treasurer.

The organization will continue to be a legal subsidiary of the Summit Neighborhood Association until it can stand-alone. It is now developing its own website and is contacting the gardeners so they may sign a gardening contract, get a copy of the newly minted bylaws and pay the membership fee.

The garden development is one phase of the city Parks Department’s proposed refurbishment of the surrounding “tot lot” playground and SNA will also continue to support that plan.

May 1 Set For Annual Meeting
The board of directors of the Summit Neighborhood Association has set the date of the annual meeting for Monday, May 1.

As per the organization’s bylaws, a new board is to be elected each year by the members, so a slate of candidates will be presented. Nominations from the floor at the meeting will also be accepted. SNA’s activities for the year will be reviewed by the president and any pertinent subjects may be acted upon.

The site for the meeting has not yet been selected, but last year’s was held at the Highlands on the East Side, 101 Highland Avenue, and the board is working to arrange for that venue. As in past meetings, a social period would begin at 6:30pm and the business segment would begin at 7pm. Wine, beer and food – some of it kosher – is to be provided.

For confirmation of the site and other details, please look to the SNA website – SNA.Providence.RI.us – or Summit Neighborhood Association on Facebook.

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@SNA.Providence.RI.us
- Kerry Kohring 

Blackstone Parks Conservancy

Shifting Gears for 2017
Mid-winter is a time to dream of new green leaves unfolding in the Blackstone parks and the mountain laurel lighting up the woods like so many giant paper lanterns, as well as figuring out how the Blackstone Parks Conservancy (BPC) can best serve the parks and the thousands who will use them in 2017.

Like many non-profit organizations, the BPC happily noticed a bump in contributions last fall. And with this small spike came new members and more expressions of support than usual. Much appreciated notes on contribution envelopes usually say things like “Keep up the good work,” or “You’re doing a great job!” But one response to our fall appeal stood out from the rest: “Now is the time for us all to pull together!”

The boost couldn’t have come at a better time. While many loyal members consistently support the BPC’s care of the two Blackstone parks, some friends have moved away in recent years and our membership numbers have declined slightly when we need them to be rising.

Despite the efforts of our volunteers to reach out, far too many Providence residents – even close neighbors and others who frequently walk or run in one or both parks – do not know who it is that adds new trees and plants to the Boulevard and waters them. Nor do they realize who refurbishes the trails in the Blackstone Park Conservation District and replaces the plants that have died over the winter.

The BPC, supported by our members, does all of the above and much more in collaboration with an overextended Parks Department charged with looking after more than 100 city parks. And dwindling resources. Rhode Island’s environmental agencies also provide crucial assistance, especially in addressing storm water and erosion challenges in the heavily used Conservation District.

But all this work is not enough. To do justice to the parks before the busy spring-summer-fall season begins, the BPC needs to beef up its membership and its cadre of volunteers in order to catch up with invasive plant species and to avoid having to cut back our concerts and popular education programs. Reversing attrition challenges is high on our agenda.

Meanwhile, there is more to do to improve the stability of the parks in the face of erratic rainfall. Like environmentalists everywhere, we are scrambling to build resilience into our precious green spaces. Park Committee Chair Carrie Drake, member Margaret Brookner and City Forester Doug Still brought home some useful ideas along these lines from the January workshop organized by the US Forest Service in Boston.

On February 8 the temperature hit 60 degrees. And the next day came a blizzard with 25 degrees. New Englanders are accustomed to weather swings, but not to the extremes we are now seeing. Storm surges require that we spend more time and money strengthening paths and trails, and drought has made it essential to water the boulevard and new plants in the woods more often than in the past.

Plans for 2017
This month, the newly revived Boulevard Committee is figuring out how to manage pruning, watering and mulching in 2017, as well a tree inventory and solutions for the worn center path.

The Park Committee will continue the popular Park Keeping sessions and work on badly eroded areas and invasive plant removal and replacement projects.

How many educational programs and concerts take place will depend on new volunteers signing up with the Education Committee. To participate, please contact the BPC (see below).

And please remember to send your Eastside Marketplace receipts to the Conservancy.

Healthy Urban Green Space for All!

Blackstone Parks Conservancy
PO Box 603141, Providence, RI 02906 | 270-3014
JaneAnnPeterson@gmail.com
-Jane Peterson 

Fox Point Neighborhood Association

Events this Month
Board Meeting, March 13. Please join us at our monthly FPNA Board Meeting, 7pm, March 13, 2017 at the Vartan Gregorian Bath House Community Room, 455 Wickenden Street. The public is welcome.

Meet Up With Us!
Please join us for drinks and casual conversation at the next FPNA Meet-Up. Neighbors will gather at 7pm on Monday, March 20, 2017 at The Point Tavern to share thoughts and ideas for the neighborhood. All are welcome!

Progress with the Gano Gateway?
In September 2016, The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) defunded the Gano Gateway project, a final element of the I-195 Replacement Highway. As Jayne Guertin wrote in “The Unfinished Gateway” for East Side Monthly in January, “With the best of intentions, the RIDOT set down an ambitious plan.”

Since then, FPNA and partner stakeholders have pressed RIDOT to restore funding and complete the project as planned. “Both parties seem encouraged,” said one stakeholder, though no definitive decisions or plans have been announced.

Meanwhile, as neighbors and commuters can plainly see, the area at Gano Street and Route 195 has languished, with unsightly piles of construction debris, lack of lighting and parking in the area, and a dangerous 90-degree turn under the Washington Bridge. Former FPNA Secretary John Rousseau said to ESM, “Traffic flow is seriously hampered by this bottleneck for East Side commuters at Gano Street and for event goers at India Point Park.”

The FPNA is committed to improving the safety, function and appearance of this crucial intersection, for neighbors, commuters and newcomers visiting Providence. Stay tuned for more information in the upcoming weeks.

Seasonal Ice Rink in Gano Park
Please join us in Gano Park for free skating in a new seasonal ice rink, open to all.

Wheeler student Dennis Gastel, an experienced skater and rink builder, built a freestanding ice rink in late January, with the help of classmate Alden Weinberg. The rink is located on the grassy area near the soccer fields of Gano Park.

Gastel won support for the project by the FPNA, the Partnership for Providence Parks and the City Department of Parks and Recreation, which has installed safety fencing surrounding the rink area. Gastel and several friends plan to maintain the smooth surface during the life of the rink.

“The Parks Department is thrilled to work with the community on youth-driven projects like the Fox Point Rink,” says Wendy Nilsson for the City of Providence. It is a “wonderful partnership,” adds Helene Miller of PPP. “This newly built rink is now a dynamic and featured part of the Gano Street Park for the winter season,” she says.

Most of all, the rink brings people together during a time of year when it’s easy to stay inside. “It’s a way to get away from screens,” says Gastel. “There’s nothing like being on a rink with family and friends.”

Gano Park is located on Gano Street between East Transit and Amy Streets, with parking on the street or in the adjacent lot. The rink is open during the daylight hours; skate at your own risk. Stay tuned to the FPNA Facebook page for updates on the rink, which will come down when the weather warms up.

Potholes? Residents Embrace 3-1-1

Until March of last year, the City of Providence used a phone-based system to process special requests for city services. When neighbors noticed potholes, graffiti, code violations and other neighborhood issues, they picked up the phone and called the City.

Now, residents can submit requests online or with the PVD311 smartphone app. Jen Stevens, Director of the Human Relations Commission for the Office of the Mayor, encourages residents to describe the problem, pinpoint the location and send a picture upon discovery.

The upgraded system records requests more securely and efficiently than before. According to Andrew Jacques, Director of the Mayor’s Center for City Services, between March and December 2016, the City processed and completed 412 requests from Fox Point residents alone. That’s a lot of problems solved.

Residents can access the 3-1-1 system by downloading the free app (PVD311), dialing 3-1-1 by phone during business hours or by clicking “PVD 3-1-1” on the city website, ProvidenceRI.com.

Fox Point Neighborhood Association

PO Box 2315 Providence, RI 02906
FoxPointNeighborhood@gmail.com 
–Amy Mendillo

College Hill Neighborhood Association

More Details on Suboxone Drug Clinic on Thayer Street
At our February meeting, President Josh Eisen, who is also a nearby neighbor, presented the latest update on the status of the proposed plan to renovate the Tillinghast Mansion on the corner of Lloyd and Thayer streets. Community awareness of the project began when an oversized sign announcing Suboxone, a drug prescribed to deal with opiate addiction but which according to some opponents is often traded itself on the black market, would be available in the building commencing this spring.

In response to overwhelming neighborhood push back, the size of the sign has now been reduced significantly in conformance with city regulations. However immediate legal remedies to prohibit the prescription and distribution of the drug, given the close proximity of the building to Hope High, Moses Brown and Wheeler, are proving more difficult.

In a recent meeting organized by nearby residents, the City’s legal counsel stated its position that despite the fact that the building has not been used as a doctor’s office in several years, the fact that it had received a non-conforming use permit back in the 1950s negates neighbors attempts to have the space designated as abandoned which would require the new owners to reapply for a new use variance. Lawyers for the new owners presented their plans for the building, which includeS two doctors’ offices, one for prescribing Suboxone and a second to house a psychiatrist. The second and third floors would be used for apartments. No lease has been officially signed for either of the new medical offices though lawyers did maintain that a letter of intent has been agreed upon. The doctors were not identified.

Without more concerted pushback from neighbors “of legal standing,” that is to say within 400 feet of the building in question, Eisen feels there is little that can be done short of monitoring the operation of the medical offices in regard to conformance to both city and medical regulations. In response to this, Councilman Sam Zurier has announced his plan to introduce a new city ordinance that would address this issue in the future by enhancing the legal ramifications of an abandonment.

CHNA will continue to monitor the situation and inform the neighborhood of any changes in the situation.

City to Match Neighborhood Fundraising for Prospect Terrace
The CHNA has raised just under $5,000 for the first leg of its efforts to begin fixing up Prospect Terrace. City Parks Superintendent Wendy Nilsson agreed to match the monies raised so far for the project. A grant writer is now being sought for stage two. Meanwhile the superintendent and Sara Bradford, the professional landscape designer of the renovations, will meet to determine the specifics of the initial roll out. In addition, a neighborhood cleanup is being planned for Prospect Terrace for Earth Day, Saturday, April 22. Any neighbors interested in becoming more involved in the project should call 751-7078.

More Stores Coming to Thayer Street
The nine new businesses that committed to Thayer Street have started to open, beginning with GNC Wellness (215 Thayer) and Durk’s Bar-B-Q (275 Thayer). Next? Save the date of March 25 for the Grand Opening of DenDen Korean Fried Chicken (183 Angell Street), a sister restaurant to DenDen.

Donna Personeus of the Thayer Street Management District Authority (TSMDA) announces they are still waiting for the official Grand Opening dates for WOW BBQ (183 Angell Street), Insomnia Cookies (307 Thayer), Tropical Smoothie Café (272 Thayer, second floor), Chopsticks (277 Thayer) and a new vegan restaurant coming to the former Au Bon Pain location, all due to open before the end of July.

The TSMDA wanted us to also know that their annual Fall Artisan Festival will be moving up into Spring, Sunday, June 11 to be specific. Interested crafts people and shoppers should be sure to save the date.

Please Come Join Us
CHNA has been representing the residents of College Hill since 1984 and urge all our neighbors to join us in our efforts to protect the community we all call home. Contact us at any of the following addresses to join or to volunteer.

College Hill Neighborhood Association

PO Box 2442, Providence, RI 02906 | 633-5230
CHNA@CollegeHillNA.com
–Barry Fain

Waterman Street Dog Park Association

The Waterman Street Dog Park is shaping up to be a big hit.  To show just how popular, since the opening, the park has already gone through almost 10,000 bags for disposal of canine ordure.  Of course, that figure doesn’t include the bags that human companions bring with them – a practice that is highly encouraged.

The park is also turning into a nexus of social engagement for both dogs and human friends.  Come on down, and meet some of your neighbors.

The Dog Park Association continues to work on improving the park.  During the winter, there is a focus on brush removal, and there are many more improvements to be made.  The Dog Park Association always welcomes new members; so if you’re interested in the park’s future, get involved!

Waterman Street Dog Park Association
WatermanStDogPark@gmail.org
–Samuel Bell