Community

Neighborhood News July 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

More than 80 people attended the SNA annual meeting May 1 to elect a new board of directors and hear an analysis of the changes in America’s neighborhoods. Organization members and invited guests gathered at 7pm in the Highlands on the East Side, 101 Highland Avenue, for wine, beer, soda and pizza as well as an opportunity to meet new friends and greet old ones.

The business of the meeting began with a review by President Dean Weinberg of the Summit Neighborhood Association’s achievements over the past year culminating in the opening of the community gardens in the Summit Avenue park. He also mentioned the neighborhood’s major event – the recall of Ward 3 City Councilman Kevin Jackson – pointing out that the SNA had not taken sides as it is nonpartisan.

SNA Secretary Thomas Schmeling, as head of the board’s nominating committee, presented a change in the organization’s bylaws to allow votes by the board of directors via electronic media. There was some discussion from the floor about the possibility of that violating state law, but with an amendment that the change would be “consistent with state law,” it was passed.

Schmeling than gave the floor to Mayor Jorge Elorza, who outlined his priorities for the city’s budget. The mayor cited his attempts to balance the budget to include a “rainy day” fund. He emphasized investments in the infrastructure of the public schools with preschool and summer learning programs with technology in classrooms including computers and three-dimensional printers. Elorza also pointed to a drop in gang-related crime, support for recreation and summer jobs for youth and a push for six weeks of paid parental leave. He noted the lack of transportation for the elderly and said the city has its own buses to address that problem. The mayor also cited a work and rehabilitation program for the homeless.

After Mayor Elorza had to leave, Schmeling presented the slate of board candidates, including one who had stepped forward at the meeting, and they were elected by acclamation. President Weinberg had decided to not seek reelection and was presented with a family membership in the Boston Science Museum as a token of gratitude for his service.

The new board consists of: Ethan Gyles, president; Kerry Kohring, vice president; Eric Christiansen, secretary (conditional on board approval since he was absent); Britt Page, treasurer; and returning members Kim Clark, Lee Clasper-Torch, Anneliese Greenier, Schmeling, Emily Spitzman, Sharon Lee Waldman and Weinberg. New members are Anne Holland, Sandra Lee, John Pettinelli and Laura Ramsey.

The final item on the agenda was the discussion of the nation’s changing neighborhoods led by Marc. J. Dunkelman, author of The Vanishing Neighbor: The Transformation of American Community and a Taubman Fellow at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs.

He presented the findings of his research on the evolving American community and said that ordinary citizens have lost faith in traditional institutions. He described a social model of three concentric rings of interaction, with an inner circle of intensity and an outer ring of single common interests. He characterized the middle ring as composed of casual meetings of neighbors sharing common problems and solutions.

Dunkelman’s premise is that this ring is deteriorating because of narcissistic emphasis on inner-ring relations and the capitalization of outer-ring opportunities. He said that most American problem-solving institutions are based on middle-ring interactions, and as these diminish, so does the faith in traditional methods. He said U.S. social architecture “was based on common solutions by people who knew each other,” but that has changed and middle-ring “relationships are collapsing,” perhaps as a result of technology.

He said that “if foundations of social interactions change, the institutions based on them crumble and we have to address whether to shore them up or construct new institutions.” He pointed out that new ideas come from “braiding together” different approaches, but that millennials are choosing not to interact with diverse opportunities.

His solution, he told the audience, is to promote interaction by inviting strangers to share viewpoints. This prompted lively discussion until the time allotted for the annual meeting ran out. Summit Neighborhood Association, PO Box 41092, Providence RI 02940. 489-7078, SNA.Providence.RI.us, SNA@SNA.Providence.RI.us –Kerry Kohring

Wayland Square Neighborhood Association

The Wayland Square Neighborhood Association welcomes new members who would like to participate in community activities, events and planning. We meet on the second Tuesday of the month at varying venues around the Square. Please consult the Wayland Square Neighborhood Association’s Facebook page for this month’s location.

The Neighborhood Association is working with the Wayland Square Merchants Association on several upcoming events, including a sidewalk sale on July 14 and 15, from 10am-5pm, coinciding with Restaurant Week. Upcoming events also include a tree planting and a fall festival. We are also currently engaged in a beautification project and you’ll see new planters, benches and bike racks around the Square soon!

For updates on events, activities and community efforts, check the Wayland Square Neighborhood Association’s Facebook page often. Facebook: Wayland Square Neighborhood Association, Groups.Yahoo.com/Group/WaylandSquare –Marti Del Negro and David Kolsky

Mount Hope Neighborhood Association

“The Summer is ended – the Harvest is past” (jer. 8:20). The harvest is already here at the Billy Taylor Park Community Garden. The first fruits, as well as radish, lettuce and spinach, are ready for the pickings, so all you Popeyes and Olive Oyls, break out the salad dressing and let’s get started. Come on out and join the Green Team and the Grow & $hare Plan and reap yourself a delicious reward for your labor of love. Emily Cobel, the new resident gardener, is available to answer any questions and offer any helpful tips to get you started. Feel free to bring your own experience and tips. The new garden hours are Tuesdays 4-6pm, Wednesdays 5:30-7pm and Saturdays 12-3pm. See you soon.

The Arts Collaborative/Mural Project Design under the direction of Hannah from the Mount Hope Learning Center is close to wrapping up its creation of both an oral and a visual history of the Mount Hope neighborhood. The visual history will be the mural for the wall on Cypress Street under the bridge at Billy Taylor Park, which will expose the neighborhood community to very interesting history. Still looking for old and really old photos? Check your closet or attic; you never know what you’ll turn up on your own history. Hurry up, though; they’re looking to do this by the end of August or early September. Call (401) 473-4372 for more information or suggestions.

Also coming to Billy Taylor Park once again is Summer Under the Tree Storytelling, which will be held every Wednesday, July 5 through August 9. The program is geared toward ages 5 to 11, but feel free to drop by no matter what age you are. Everybody likes a good story!

What else is cooking? Glad you asked. The successful Culinary 4 Change program, which was gracefully hosted by Reverend Campbell and the Church of the Redeemer, is looking to start another one soon. As we get everything in place, look out for an update in the near future.

CHW Empowerment Dialogue meets every fourth Thursday of the month. Our next meeting is scheduled for June 22, 6-7pm, at the Mount Hope Neighborhood Community Center, 199 Camp Street. Got suggestions and/or resources? Come on out and share your thoughts as we work to enhance and refine our vision/mission for the neighborhood. The Health Education Referral Program is planning several workshops in the very near future, such as a HEZ Community Workshop on Community Rights and Childhood Lead Action home safety inspections. Look out for upcoming dates and times, or call 521-8830. You can also go online for information at CHIRI.org.

Summer is here, so let’s get outdoors and plant some really good memories and share a few stories and meet some new neighbors! Mount Hope Neighborhood Association, 199 Camp Street, Providence, RI 02906, 521-8830, Facebook: Mount Hope Neighborhood Association, MHNAInc@gmail.com. –Roger Lanctot

Fox Point Neighborhood Association

A New Turn for Lower Gano Street
Last fall, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) removed funding for construction at the intersection of lower Gano Street and I-195 at India Point Park, an area known as the “Gano Gateway” that was slated as a final element of the massive I-195 relocation project. During winter and spring 2017, the FPNA Gano Gateway Committee and other stakeholders worked with RIDOT to restore funding, in order to address traffic problems, beautify the area and improve safety for drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians. The conversations with RIDOT culminated with a compromise measure that would cover rudimentary improvements and begin construction this year.

Early this summer, however, the story took a new turn, reopening options for improved design and funding. In early May, the City of Providence convened neighbors and interested parties to discuss priorities for the project, including specific design features and safety measures for pedestrians and bicyclists. According to one FPNA board member, neighbors discussed “a third archway [the eastern-most arch of the bridge] devoted to a wide pedestrian/bike lane a safe distance from the busy roadway. Sensitive landscaping of the site and a residual curve in the roadway would address the issue of traffic speed.” Also, in May, State Representative Chris Blazejewski introduced legislation to appropriate $1.9 million to re-fund the project. The House Finance Committee heard public comments in late May, including testimony from FPNA leaders and Fox Point neighbors.

The FPNA sees great potential in this new phase of planning, for improved funding and a more thoughtful, cost-effective design, even if construction is delayed. After months of advocacy on this issue, the FPNA would like to see this project done right. Stay tuned for more.

10,000 More Suns
Last summer, Fox Point neighbors saw the first installment of 10,000 Suns in the empty lots between Water and South Main streets at Transit Street. “10,000 Suns is an interim park project in which 10,000 sunflower seeds will be planted on vacant land in Providence, RI,” wrote designer Adam Anderson. He describes the project as “a summer-long botanical performance.”

This year, Anderson is doing it again, and thanks to individual donations from a Kickstarter campaign (online), has expanded plantings into adjacent fields and added a simple irrigation system. Volunteers gathered in late May to prepare the land and plant the seeds. “The first seeds have started to sprout,” said Anderson in late May.

But there’s more. “The project isn’t just about the sunflowers,” said Anderson. “It acts as a symbol for the possibility of landscape. The true ‘garden’ is the activation of the space and the engagement of all types with each in the field. It’s what all great public spaces should strive towards.” The FPNA welcomes this project.

Events this Month
Board Meeting, July 10. Please join us at our monthly FPNA Board Meeting, 7pm, in the Community Room of the Vartan Gregorian Elementary School, 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 to share thoughts and brainstorm ideas for the neighborhood. Date TBD, usually a Monday evening at 7pm at The Point Tavern. All are welcome.

The Fox Point Neighborhood Association is a non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing the quality of life in Fox Point and protecting its historic integrity and resources. The FPNA speaks out on neighborhood issues and builds community through local events. Our monthly board meetings are open to the public. Please join us! Fox Point Neighborhood Association, PO Box 2315, Providence, RI 02906, FPNA.net, FoxPointNeighborhood@gmail.com –Amy Mendillo

College Hill Neighborhood Association

From Suboxone to Solar
The June board meeting of the College Hill Neighborhood Association featured two presentations. The first was by Kayla Powell, who is the new Neighborhood Projects Coordinator for the City and charged with communicating any issues of concern from our three East Side Wards to the Mayor. Members of the CHNA board and several residents in attendance then briefly discussed our current areas of most concern: objections over the location of the proposed suboxone clinic, the maintenance of some properties owned by Walter Bronhard and the status of work being done on the east entrance onto Route 195 in Fox Point. A second presentation was made by Lauren Vunderlink from SolSmart, the City’s Office of Sustainability, who explained some of the specifics about the pluses and minuses of installing solar panels on your property and the City’s involvement in the process. She did mention that those East Siders living in a historic district also would require approval from the Providence Historic District Commission, but that they generally have no issues with relatively inconspicuous roofscapes not visible from the front.

Restoration to Begin at Prospect Terrace
Board member Sara Bradford reported that progress is continuing and the first RFPs have gone out on preliminary work to be done on Prospect Terrace. A well-respected landscape designer, Sara has produced the initial design and will be working closely with the Parks Department on its phased implementation. Additionally, a new pledge of $10,000 has been received, which will hopefully be matched by the Rhode Island Foundation. Work is expected to begin this summer on the first projects and will expand as additional funding is secured.

News from Thayer
The future of Thayer Street continues to get brighter as new businesses complete the remodeling of their commercial spaces in order to open their doors this summer of 2017.

We are excited to be welcoming so many new businesses, many family-owned and -operated: WOW BBQ (183 Angell, family-owned); Tropical Smoothie Cafe (272 Thayer, 2nd floor); Chopsticks (277 Thayer, family-owned); By Chloe (223 Thayer); B. Good (269 Thayer); UMelt (267 Thayer, local owners); Base Station (286 Thayer Street, 2nd floor, family-owned), a video gaming and virtual reality gaming business; a beauty shop to be named (267 Thayer, 2nd floor); and a new business coming to 165 Angell Street (locally owned). We also await news of who will be coming to 249 Thayer (former Store 24/Tedeschi) after the redevelopment planning process is complete. Stay tuned as Thayer Street continues, as always, to evolve.

Also congratulations to Kartabar on their 16th anniversary on Thayer Street!

Become a CHNA Member – It’s Easy!
Come join our merry group and help protect the neighborhood we all love. College Hill Neighborhood Association, PO Box 2442, Providence, RI 02906. 633-5230, CollegeHillNA.com, CHNA@CollegeHillNA.com –Barry Fain

Waterman Street Dog Park Association

The Waterman Street Dog Park is continuing to grow. With successful installation of curb improvements for handicapped accessibility, the Dog Park Association is looking forward to art installations and sidewalk repairs.

As neighbors and their furry friends continue to flock to the park, the Dog Park Association is looking for more volunteers to help maintain and improve the park. Without all the support from countless neighbors, local businesses, foundations and community institutions, the park would have never happened. And without Wendy Nilsson and the amazing team at the Providence Parks

Department, none of this would have been possible. The Dog Park Association is eternally grateful to everyone who helped make the park the success it is today. Waterman Street Dog Park Association. 19 Luzon Avenue, Providence, RI 02906. WatermanStDogPark@gmail.com, WatermanStDogPark.org –Sam Bell

Blackstone Parks Conservancy

Signs of Life in York Pond
Given all that York Pond by the Seekonk River has been through at the hands of humans, well-intentioned and not, in the last few centuries, you might not expect to see much movement there. But on a morning this May, it throbbed with life! Five egrets flew up to roost in trees at water’s edge, ducks splashed and eight snapping turtles lumbered nearby. Two different species of herons came and went, using plants for sustenance and shelter that the Blackstone Parks Conservancy (BPC) installed over a decade ago at the water’s edge.

Now burdened by street sand and pollutants, York Pond used to resemble Grotto Creek just to the north, an open-mouthed inlet where fresh water and bay water sloshed back and forth. Old underground streams drained a 380-acre East Side watershed through the five-acre ravine lush with ferns and wildflowers that Moses Brown’s grandson donated to the City in 1866. The streams still flow, but instead of meandering at their own pace and nourishing the narrow valley, they race straight through the hard-lined waterway installed in the 1930s by the WPA (Works Progress Administration), surging during rainstorms.

Water engineers today recognize that nothing is simple where flowing water is concerned. Whereas earlier engineers tried to move storm water out of settled areas as fast as possible, current experts (hydrologists) aspire to mimic nature, allowing water to penetrate the ground close to where it falls.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of Environmental Management (DEM), BPC and the City of Providence dredged York Pond, which had become an unsightly dump by the end of the 20th century, with welcome results. However, the dissipator, a concrete holding barrier installed at the back of the pond to capture street sand and trash, was poorly built and improperly maintained, and the pond regressed toward its degraded state.

From idyll to dump for toxic waste to skating rink and back again, the pond’s history illustrates the dilemmas and opportunities confronting the city and the BPC as they seek to preserve and protect Blackstone Park for all to enjoy. With the help of state environmental agencies and Rhode Island scientists and engineers, the BPC has made real progress in the Blackstone Park Conservation District (BPCD) by working with adults and children to protect plants and soil from storm water runoff and invasive plants. Grants from the Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) are particularly helpful in retaining soil on steep slopes.

The most formidable challenge in the Conservation District may be figuring out how to correct York Pond’s imbalances. This the BPC hopes to do in future partnership with the Seekonk Riverbank Revitalization Alliance and all the city offices and agencies and non-profit groups who see value in protecting water bodies for recreation.

The opportunities for recreation and simple pleasure at York Pond are many. Even now, the historic pond remains a quiet spot for wonder – the “shower of white fire” made by the egrets in Mary Oliver’s poem – and inspiration. Easels perched at pond’s edge, books and notepads in the hands of readers, people simply relaxing on park benches nearby all attest to the influence of this water. And students of all ages learn from York Pond.

Here nature is resilient. And the job of the community led by the BPC is to boost that resilience. We do this with volunteers and your donations.

Kindly send your Eastside Marketplace receipts to the address below. Check our website and newsletter for concert and Park Keeping dates. Blackstone Parks Conservancy, PO Box 603141, Providence, RI 02906. 270-3014, BlackstoneParksConservancy.org, JaneAnnPeterson@gmail.com –Jane Peterson