Community

Neighborhood News May 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.

Posted

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

City Weeds Out Unsafe Toys at Parks
The plastic toys in the Summit Avenue “tot lot” – as well as the Gladys Potter and Morris Street parks – were culled in March by the city’s Parks Department for safety reasons, according to Superintendent Wendy Nilsson.

In a statement about the toys to SNA, she said, “We look at them in the context of national Playground and Safety Standards for public parks. Many of the toys have sharp edges, small parts that are choking hazards, or are damaged in such a way that they could trap little fingers.”

In addition, Nilsson said, “We don’t have the staff to repeatedly visit each park to check toys for hazards, and the reality is that, even if we did, very few of them would meet safety standards. As a compromise, our staff are instructed to periodically remove toys if there are safety issues or their numbers overtake the park. We have been thinning the toys this way for years.”

However, she pointed out, “my own children grew up playing with the tot lot plastic toys, so their removal is not something I take lightly. No one wants to disappoint a three-year-old!”

In that context, Nilsson said the Parks Department “would welcome more neighbor involvement in our local parks more generally.”

“We would be happy to meet with representatives of local parks to discuss the future of plastic toys at the tot lots. This might start a valuable relationship between park neighbors and the Parks Department. There is an entire organization, the Partnership for Providence Parks (ProvidenceParks.org), that works with us to establish and support Friends Groups so that we can have partners for all of our parks,” her statement said.

Nilsson added that “at Summit, we work with the Summit Neighborhood Association, but would love for many of you to get involved as we will soon be adding some additional play features and making some much-needed repairs to the existing structures.

“We are also trying to create more fun things for the children to do in the parks so they might not miss all the plastic toys. Instead of adding plastic play equipment, we are working to create parks that connect children to nature and open and free play. At many of our parks we are building berms, log retaining walls, rain gardens, and adding rocks for children to play on and explore.”

Hope Street Plans Annual Block Party

The Hope Street Merchants Association is going to hold its annual spring block party on Saturday, May 20, with about 5,000 guests expected. The street will be closed from Rochambeau to Fourth and attractions will include a live music stage, fashion show, beer garden, children’s activities, food trucks and approximately 50 art/craft/nonprofit street vendors. 
 
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


Fox Point Neighborhood Association 

Events This Month
May 8, Board Meeting: 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.

FPNA Welcomes the East End
As many neighbors know, the owner of the property at 244 Wickenden Street, the site of the former Z Bar and Grille, has been restoring and renovating the building to open a new eatery called The East End. Early this year, he requested a liquor license to stay open until 2am on weekends. Several neighbors objected to this license request due to fears of late-night disruption and a possible cascade effect if other businesses followed suit. They spoke out at the February FPNA Board Meeting and wrote letters to the Providence Board of Licensees.

Since then, the owner of The East End, Gil MacLean, has rescinded the request for the later license and replaced it with an earlier license request that aligns with other eateries on the street. The FPNA voted to endorse the new request enthusiastically, not only because of MacLean’s record of responsible, community-oriented business practices at his other East Side business, Bottles Fine Wine, but also for his remarkable willingness to revise his request based on neighbor input.

Several neighbors have since voiced their support for the earlier license. One neighbor told FPNA that The East End would be “just the right venue for our neighborhood” and “a good replacement for the Rue.” Please join us in welcoming The East End to the neighborhood!

Compromise Reached for in the Gano Gateway

In early March, the FPNA Board voted to accept a compromise measure with the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) to fund limited construction of the Gano Gateway and complete the work during 2017.

This vote marked the culmination of several meetings this past winter between the FPNA Gano Gateway Committee and officials at RIDOT. The Committee, along with other area stakeholders, asked RIDOT to restore funding for construction at the intersection of Gano Street and the I-195, the east entrance to India Point Park and one of the final chapters of the massive I-195 relocation project. The meetings began shortly after the RIDOT diverted funds from the Gateway to build a pedestrian bridge to the nearby Jewelry District. In the meantime, the area has deteriorated, with large piles of debris and a dangerous 90-degree turn under the bridge.

The compromise measure includes repaving the south end of Gano Street, softening the 90-degree turn in the road, installing rudimentary gravel parking under the bridge, and removing the piles of dirt. It falls short of the original plan. But as FPNA decided in March, the compromise will go a long way in improving the appearance and function of this crucial intersection.

Updates to follow on the construction schedule for the Gateway and neighborhood efforts to fund incremental measures like lighting and basic landscaping.

We Met Up!
The FPNA held its first monthly Meet-Up at The Point Tavern this past March. The goal of this series, says FPNA board member Bruce Millard, is to bring East Side neighbors together in a casual setting to brainstorm ideas for the neighborhood. “We hope for a time of productivity, creativity, fun, and above all, community,” says Bruce.

The first Meet-Up succeeded on all counts. Fifteen or so neighbors joined the FPNA, including representatives from the Wickenden Area Merchants Association, Friends of India Point Park and the Friends of Fox Point Community Library.

Collaboration was the theme of the evening. “People were excited about the prospect of a future farmers market and combining other projects, like a used bike sale and a pie bake-off,” Bruce says. “Our first monthly Meet-Up was a great success.” Please join us for the next Monday evening Meet-Up at The Point Tavern, date and time TBD (check Facebook for updates.)

Fox Point Neighborhood Association, PO Box 2315, Providence, RI 02906. FPNA.net, FoxPointNeighborhood@gmail.com –Amy Mendillo


Blackstone Parks Conservancy

Blackstone Boulevard – More Than an Ordinary Roadway
A new vision for Blackstone Boulevard depicts a destination for thousands of drivers, walkers, runners and bikers even more welcoming than it is now – and more sustainable. It could more nearly resemble the original dream of 19th-century city leaders, who, in the days of horse-drawn carriages, envisaged more than an ordinary roadway.

The boulevard was conceived to extend Butler Avenue and replace the original road inside the cemetery with one on farmland just outside the western boundary. But the Swan Point directors in 1887 wanted more than a mere means of conveying visitors to the cemetery. They specified a “fine boulevard” with a shaded drive; a streetcar road (to serve growing numbers of visitors who would “no longer have to ‘submit to the tortures of an antiquated “bus”’”); and “winding paths.” To realize their vision they hired a leading landscape architect, Horace Cleveland, designer of Roger Williams Park.

Changing Times
With additional planting in the 1900s, the 1.6-mile-long park in the center of the Boulevard flourished. And over time the balance between park and roadway became more park-like. When the trolley ceased operation in 1948, the site of its rails became a path for walking and, later, running. More recently, the popularity of biking inspired planners to set aside part of the roadway for a bike path.

The path and Trolley Shelter after World War II deteriorated until late in the 20th century, when Blackstone Parks Conservancy (BPC) volunteers began working with the Parks Department to install new trees and benches. Now the Boulevard Committee and Chairman Colgate Searle, a landscape architect on sabbatical from RISD, are working to strengthen the historic park’s future.

In addition to creating an online master list of trees, Searle is studying the soil in the badly worn path in order to recommend workable improvements to the Parks Department. He and other BPC board members also envisage ways to prevent erosion and capture more storm water for reuse by trees and plants.

Searle’s slides illustrating the park’s venerable history fascinated attendants of the BPC annual meeting in March. He suggested managing the Boulevard from one sidewalk to the next as part of the urban forest to enhance the experience of driving – or walking or running or biking – under an arch of trees. It would hopefully be safer than it now is.

The Boulevard Traffic Proposal
Far from the days when carriages were forbidden to drive faster than four miles an hour in Swan Point, the Boulevard Park in recent years sometimes floats in a sea of traffic. With speed have come accidents, like the one that knocked the boulder at the intersection with Lloyd 25 feet southward, where it remains. Although auto accidents dwindled after the bike paths were drawn, residents still endured late-night motorcycle races, and cyclists have been cut off and even knocked over by impatient drivers.

In response to neighbor concern over traffic, the BPC board, guided by civil engineer Jon Ford, drafted the following Boulevard Traffic Principles for possible use in future discussions:

“The Conservancy proposes that traffic-calming solutions be consistent with the Boulevard’s historic character and ecological needs wherever possible, thus making the park more viable. In general, this means: Increasing green space; Reducing extraneous pavement; Improving storm water management; Providing a minimum of conveniently located on-street parking; and enhancing bicycle safety and use.

“Perhaps most important, the Conservancy encourages a community-based dialogue to ensure that the neighbors affected are part of the design and selection of alternatives.”
Please check the Blackstone Parks Conservancy website for upcoming events. Please send East Side Market receipts to the address below.

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


Mount Hope Neighborhood Association

Forecast for the near future: bright and sunny. Spring is here! Old Man Winter RIP (rest in peace).

The Empowerment Dialogue for Community Action (EDCA) meets every fourth Thursday of the month at the Mount Hope Neighborhood Association (MHNA) offices. Contact Toni-Marie Walmsley at 521-8830 for more information. Come on out and add your best resource: yourself.
 
Garden Clubs

The EDCA is currently engaged with the Food Relief to Food Sovereignty Project in running the Mt. Hope Sharing Garden Club at Billy Taylor Park at the corner of Cypress and Camp streets. A second garden is located at the Vincent Brown Center on Doyle Street, next door to the YMCA, which has been up and running as of Earth Day (April 22). Your participation is welcome and greatly encouraged. 

Everyone is invited to be part of our Garden Squad. Come on out to grow and share. Thanks and kudos to Groundwork Rhode Island for all of their cooperation.

Thanks to a Community Investment grant to the EDCA from The Miriam Hospital, we will be planting a fruit garden – another expansion to increase the amount of produce accessible to the community. Come and find out about our workshops, which offer tips for growing whatever you desire, and be part of the next Bin Garden project, which was a huge success last year.
 
Arts and Learning
The EDCA will be bringing back the very engaging Storytelling in the Park at Billy Taylor Park this summer with book giveaways courtesy of Books Are Wings and community member donations. More info to come.

The Mount Hope Learning Center is working on a mural that tells the Mount Hope Neighborhood story. For more info, contact Hannah at Mount Hope Learning Center.

Helen Dukes and the Mount Hope Community Center (which meets every first Monday of the month at the MHNA offices) are planning a Mount Hope camping trip to Burlington Campground. They are looking for youths ages 6–12 to participate. There are 12 spots available.

A Sumner Street Festival and Family Movie Nights are also in the works. Location to be determined – stay tuned for future updates. 

The WIC program is in full swing at the MHNA office. Swing by for information and applications.

The East Side Community Alliance (ESCA) has been meeting for several months to formulate plans to address community issues. Look out for info on upcoming meetings. Feel free to come on out and voice your views.

Hope to see each and everyone. To all those involved, keep up the good work.

Mount Hope Neighborhood Association, 199 Camp Street, Providence, RI 02906, 521-8830, Facebook: Mount Hope Neighborhood Association, MHNAinc@gmail.com. –Roger Lanctot


College Hill Neighborhood Association

At our recent April meeting, the following issues were discussed and shared with attendees:

Jane’s Walks
An interesting new national program called “Jane’s Walks” is being launched in Providence and we’re all invited to be part of it. Inspired by urbanist Jane Jacobs, the walks are meant to celebrate urban space as seen and experienced by both recent and longtime residents so as to encourage “walking conversations” about the specific area being toured. The group is now looking for volunteers in the College Hill area to lead walks for this annual event, which will be held the first week of May. Most tours will occur on Saturday afternoons and Sunday mornings. The Providence coordinator is Joelle Kantor (621-6122), who will explain all. Contact can also be made on the organization’s website.

Concerns about Benefit Street Landlord
A group of Benefit Street residents are concerned about the increasing concentration of many old historic properties in the hands of a single prominent landlord. Walter Bronhard now has over 50 properties on the East Side, many on Benefit Street, and concern is growing about his commitment to their care. Already a confrontation has developed about his desire to tear down the Welcome Arnold House on Planet Street just off Benefit Street, which he deems too damaged to save – which preservationists feel is not the case. A group called Friends on Benefit, joined by PPS Executive Director Brent Runyan, will make a PowerPoint presentation to encourage community discussion at the next CHNA meeting: 7pm on May 1 at the Lippitt Mansion on the corner of Angell and Hope Streets. Mr. Bronhard and/or his attorneys have been invited as well. Any past or present tenants who have lived in substandard rentals on the East Side, regardless of ownership, are invited to share their stories.

Thayer Street Updates

Donna Personeus of the Thayer Street Management District Authority (TSMDA) reports that DENDEN Korean Fried Chicken and Insomnia Cookies opened this past month to huge support from the community. Reviews of both businesses have been outstanding. More changes to Thayer are coming as well: the Tropical Smoothie Cafe (272 Thayer) and WOW BBQ (across from DENDEN on Angell) will both open in May and byChloe will open in the former Au Bon Pain space in July. Donna adds “that as we wave goodbye to Johnny Rockets, Nice Slice, English Cellar Alehouse [165 Angell] and Rockstar and wish them luck, we will be welcoming and announcing soon, four new businesses taking their place this spring. And coming June 11, our 4th Annual Thayer Street Art Festival.”

It’s Time to Join Our Merry Group

CHNA has been representing the residents of College Hill since 1984 and urges all of our neighbors to help us in our efforts to protect our community. 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. CollegeHillNA.com, CHNA@CollegeHillNA.com –Heidi Heifetz

Waterman Street Dog Park

As the Waterman Street Dog Park continues to be a hit, the Dog Park Association is very excited about all the dogs and less furry friends packing the park on a daily basis.  The Dog Park Association would like to thank all of the volunteers who came out for the Earth Day cleanup, as well as the Narragansett Bay Commission for a generous grant supporting the continued improvement of the park.

The Parks Department will be spreading wood chips in the park periodically, and when the work is being done, the gates will have to be left open.  To keep the dogs from running out into the street, all the dogs should use the small dog area when the gates are open for work on the park.

Now that the Dog Park has been completed, the Dog Park Association’s role is shifting, and the Association is looking for future leaders to maintain the park for years to come.  Enthusiastic park users are encouraged to come to a meeting on June 13 at 7pm at Books on the Square about planning for the park’s future.

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

Wayland Square

Next Meeting
The next meeting of the Wayland Square Neighborhood Association will be from 6-7:30pm on Tuesday, May 9, in the back room of Red Stripe Restaurant, 465 Angell Street, straddling Elmgrove Avenue and facing Starbucks. When fairer, more predictable weather returns, the association hopes to meet again outside on the patio of McBride’s Irish Pub on Wayland and Waterman.

Last Meeting

At its March meeting, the association discussed ways of working with local merchants to address neighborhood appearance and parking meters.

On Earth Day (Saturday, April 22), there was a community cleanup funded and sponsored by the local branches of West Elm and Whole Foods. This mirrored similar events that day across Providence.

Among other projects for which the neighborhood and business associations are seeking funds are installing or repairing benches, planters, trash bins and receptacles for dog waste.

Commercial Notes
The biggest business news as we go to press is unfortunately negative.

The largest loss is the non-renewal of Paper Nautilus’s annual lease of 5 South Angell Street, just below Wayland Avenue. The popular used-book store closed its doors, after 20 years, on Sunday, April 9. The owner is seeking a new location elsewhere in Providence, but as this issue goes to press, nothing is certain.

Alex and Ani, the once-hugely-successful jewelry store, has left its prominent and highly attractive location on Wayland and Angell (right next door to Paper Nautilus) vacant for months. I have no further news, but would appreciate any tips that readers might have.

Moe’s Southwest Grill has vacated its location two blocks down Wayland, at Waterman Street, with a notice that the nearest Moe’s is in East Providence.

Wayland Square Neighborhood Association, tinyurl.com/WaylandSquare, Groups.Yahoo.com/Group/WaylandSquare –David Kolsky (with the help of Marti Del Negro)