Today, I’m respectfully asking Governor McKee, Chairman Robert Davis, and the members of the I-195 Redevelopment District Commission to consider final decisions on the development of Providence land happen “with the community” rather than simply “to the community.”
Over the past several months, our office has been working diligently to engage and inform the residents of Ward 1 on the development of Parcel 2, located along the Providence River at the edge of the College Hill and Fox Point neighborhoods. We have hosted virtual community meetings with each of the proposed developers and hundreds of community participants. Additionally, we have had ongoing discussions with the I-195 Redevelopment District, and we’ve held small meetings with each of the developers and neighborhood abutters who live near the site. We recently released a digital survey and received feedback via 75 written comments from neighborhood residents across the Ward. A letter sent to Commission with condensed feedback includes these concerns:
•The height of the three proposals is at odds with the community •Lack of parking •More green space is needed
“I am very cognizant of the complexities and the shifts in the market in light of the pandemic and deeply support economic growth and the creation of more residential housing stock in our city to address our ongoing housing crisis. However, residents who care deeply about our neighborhood should not bear the brunt of top-down development decisions that will have enormous implications on our neighborhoods for decades to come,” said Councilman Goncalves.
“I join with and share in the concerns of Councilman Goncalves and the community regarding the development of Parcel 2. It is critical that the I-195 Commission listen to the voices of the neighborhood and address community feedback in considering projects for this land,” said House Majority Leader, Christopher Blazejewski.
Moreover, concerns loom about the I-195 Redevelopment District Commission diverting from the original mission of creating a true Providence Innovation & Design District and life-sciences mecca full of vibrant “knowledge-based” jobs in information technology, engineering, biomedical, biotechnology, and other fast-growing sectors. In letters both to the Governor and the Commission, I respectfully request we:
•Formalize and establish a task force/commission of neighborhood abutters/representatives and local businesses who can help the commission develop Requests for Proposals •Creating a panel of neighborhood experts with expertise in architectural design, zoning, planning, development, and historic preservation to ensure exceptional architecture, design, and sensitivity to the historic vibrancy of our neighborhood to complement the commission’s urban design consultants and Downtown Design Review Committee (DDRC) review during the Design Review Process •A more comprehensive road planning and development plan is required to proactively address, and mitigate concerns of traffic flow, parking, and congestion
In the coming days, we will present a list of undersigned constituents who agree with these recommendations. We are looking forward to a formal response in writing and we are appreciative of all parties for their cooperation and good faith in advance. We look forward to working collaboratively to strengthen the District and ultimately, serve the people of our neighborhoods, the Capital City, and the State at large.
Councilwoman Nirva R. LaFortune (Ward 3), Council President Pro Tempore Pedro Espinal (Ward 10), Majority Leader James Taylor (Ward 8), Senior Deputy Majority Leader Nicholas J. Narducci Jr. (Ward 4), Deputy Majority Leader Mary Kay Harris (Ward 11), Majority Whip Carmen Castillo (Ward 9), Councilor David Salvatore (Ward 14), Councilwoman Helen Anthony (Ward 2), Councilwoman Kat Kerwin (Ward 12), and Councilman John Goncalves (Ward 1), penned a letter to Rhode Island Governor Dan McKee regarding the state’s response to the recent uptick in cases of COVID-19.
I would like to extend my appreciation to the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) for their efforts to consult with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) regarding South Water Street. Additionally, I want to sincerely thank the FHWA for their review and for not implementing any penalties against the City of Providence.
Though the FHWA will not be involved in any further discussion or proceedings regarding South Water Street, I commend RIDOT for their diligence as we work collaboratively towards solutions on this issue.
Moving forward, I remain committed to collaborating with businesses, developers or any other parties who are concerned about South Water Street. Most importantly, however, I will continue to advocate for the residents and constituents of our neighborhood and city who have supported these critical multimodal infrastructure plans as a way to calm traffic along the waterfront and ultimately improve quality of life in our ward.
Statement from Councilman John Goncalves on South Water Street Trail:
Since its inception, I have been involved and aware of the planning, engagement, and implementation of the South Water Street Trail. As somebody deeply concerned about the climate crisis, about safety for people traveling through the City in all ways, and about the long-term economic and public health of our residents and local businesses, green infrastructure projects like this one give me hope for the future. Many of our constituents agree: hundreds joined me in support and proposed feedback and changes to the plan during two public community meetings in 2020, in the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic when we all were reminded just how important it is to have places to safely walk and bike in our neighborhoods.
I strongly urge the State Department of Transportation to truly listen to and engage with the everyday people in my neighborhood and the rest of the city who benefit from and support road safety projects such as this and also listen to the community on flawed and unjust past proposals such as the decentralization of the downtown transit system and the flawed Gano Street on-ramp proposal.
I understand why cars and trucks are the primary priority of highway engineers. But creating well-designed city streets that are accessible and safe for all residents takes far more care and consideration and I am hopeful that moving forward RIDOT will enhance their collaborative approach with us and support City efforts to improve local roads.
The City of Providence should be building sustainability and equity into the DNA of our streets. It’s been over a decade since the removal of the highway from this neighborhood, and the results have consistently been positive for many people who live, work, and visit the City. This trail is one more step in the direction of building a safer, forward-looking community along Providence’s riverfront for years to come.
I know that some business owners on South Water are concerned about the impacts–– they just survived an incredibly trying few years and it’s entirely understandable why they would be afraid of something new.
Plans have been in development for two years and were the product of several public meetings from March 2019 to June 2021 according to the City. In addition to postcards sent out from the Council Office, mailings were sent from the Planning Department to adjacent property owners, businesses, and residents twice during the planning and prior to construction. I personally conducted two virtual Ward 1 community meetings with Planning and Development and the City Traffic Engineer in order to engage folks in the process and to get their direct feedback and suggestions about the project.
Avid supporters and neighborhood abutters of the plan cited the safety concerns, loud music by the Pedestrian Bridge, the street racing as a result of the two-lane drag strip, ATVs, altered mufflers, droves of motorcycles, and other issues undermining the quality of life and the calmness visitors should feel along the waterfront. Simultaneously, we heard about the importance of on-street parking for adjacent businesses and worked together to ensure that on-street parking remains along South Water Street, even with the new trail.
“My wife and my three children live less than 500 feet from the pedestrian bridge on South Water Street, and we enjoy it frequently. Before the bike lane project, the area was not safe for walkers and bikers and attracted dangerous drag racing at night. I support the bike lane project because it will make the area safer for walkers and bikers like us,” stated Sam Salganik, JD, and Elnaz Firoz, MD.
Fox Point resident Kathleen Gannon added, “I am so delighted that the South Water Street urban trail is finally a reality! S Water is a vital route from my Fox Point neighborhood to many other parts of the city and having a separated active travel lane makes it easier for me to patronize the many businesses and enjoy the parks along the river. I have ridden the trail a couple of times now and love the security and freedom that comes from being completely separated and protected from motor vehicle traffic. I think motorists too, once they get used to it, will appreciate that they can drive on South Water Street without worrying about a slow cyclist, like me!”
With the infill development, most of which does not include 1-to-1 parking, we’re also hoping to make it appealing for future residents on the I-195 land to have alternative, multi-modal, and convenient transportation options, other than cars, as they work, go to the train station to commute to Boston or patronize businesses Downtown or throughout the City.
To alleviate the impacts on businesses, we convened a meeting with business owners that raised concerns in August, and we have advocated for several accommodations on their behalf. Additionally, at our office’s request, the City’s Planning and Development department had individual meetings with several business owners to hear their individual concerns.
After meeting with South Water Street business abutters and hearing their concerns, we made the following changes which were communicated to stakeholders:
We adjusted the placement of planned flexible delineator posts to accommodate large vehicles utilizing the loading dock at 121 South Main Street.
We studied potential adjustments to existing loading zones so delivery vehicles would not double park on South Water Street and as a result, DPW plans to install new loading zone signage once the contractor work is complete.
We explored adjusting the timing of the traffic signal at the Wickenden/South Water intersection to optimize the flow of traffic along South Water Street and will adjust the Wickenden signals to further improve traffic flow.
We have agreed to delay the installation of any speed lumps (which many residents were supportive of) until the street improvements are complete to assess whether lumps are still needed or not, with the ultimate hope that they may not be needed.
The infrastructure changes on South Water Street and in the City will:
Make our urban South Water Street corridor quieter
Provide a buffer between pedestrians, bicyclists, and speeding cars
Calm traffic by reducing road width, which will encourage drivers to slow down
Give residents more choice and autonomy, increase the bike-to-car ratio, and thereby increase mobility for households and residents without cars
Mitigate climate challenges as bikes emit zero carbon emissions or other air pollutants
Additionally, as studies have shown, bike infrastructure pays off: In 2005, New York City spent $10 million on bike lanes, widening sidewalks, and re-phasing traffic lights to accommodate pedestrians. A Columbia University study estimated that the “net societal benefit” of these changes were worth $230 million just 10 years later.
“Making it safer and easier to get around with alternatives to cars demonstrates we have a vision of how modern cities need to grow. South Water St. is a step in the right direction, I’m eager to see more upgrades like this soon,” added Fox Point resident Jim Salomon who serves as Vice President of Engineering at AMETEK Brookfield.
“I’m delighted to see the changes on S Water Street! Infrastructure changes like this make Providence work more like a modern city. These updates are all over NYC, DC, London, and Amsterdam already. I can’t wait to see more of these Great Streets happen in Providence!” added East Side resident Ilona Miko, Ph.D.
We are optimistic that the South Water Street Trail will broaden the number of people who will consider traveling to the area, and benefit the surrounding neighborhood’s quality of life. We wouldn’t be doing this if we thought it was going to be a detriment to our neighborhood. There will certainly be bumps in the road, as folks get used to the new arrangement, but ultimately, this infrastructure will create a myriad of benefits for neighborhood residents, and I hope that you will join us in embracing the change.
To show your support and stand up for the project, consider signing on here.
This evening, the Providence City Council voted unanimously to approve a Providence Home Rule Charter Section 403 resolution to bring charges against City Clerk Shawn Selleck, and to seek his suspension or removal from office. The resolution charges Mr. Selleck with the following:
· Violations of the City Code of Conduct
· Violations of the City Anti-bullying Policy
· Violations of the City Anti-harassment Policy
· Violations of the City Workplace Violence Policy
· Creation of a Toxic Work Environment
· Inappropriate Management
The charges contained in the resolution are based on an independent investigation conducted by respected employment and labor attorney Carly Iafrate, which determined Mr. Selleck violated the City’s Code of Conduct, Anti-Bullying, Anti-Harassment, and Workforce Violence policies through a pattern of bullying, confrontational, and intimidating behavior that created a toxic work environment within the City Clerk’s office.
Pursuant to Section 403, these charges will be presented in writing to the Mayor and Mr. Selleck, and after a 30-day period, the Council will call a public hearing to weigh the charges and vote on the suspension or removal of the City Clerk (two-thirds vote of the Council required).
At tonight’s City Council meeting, Councilman John Goncalves (Ward 1) proposed a resolution requesting Governor Dan McKee and Education Commissioner Angelica Infante-Greene impose a state-wide policy mandating all K-12 teachers and school employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine or comply with weekly testing.
“The COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective. It is the best way for school employees to protect themselves as well as the students they serve. With many Providence students still too young for vaccination, it is important to ensure that teachers who care for these children all day, five days a week, do not go unvaccinated and untested,” stated Councilman John Goncalves.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Providence County has been classified as an area of substantial COVID-19 transmission. Nearly 800,000 Rhode Islanders have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, however school children under 12 years of age are not yet eligible, leaving them at a high risk for contracting and spreading the virus.
“It is critically important for the safety of our school community that we vaccinate as many people as possible for COVID-19 who interact with our students, staff, and teachers. We now have a safe and effective FDA-approved vaccine that will provide a path back to a more normal school experience for our kids. I appreciate Councilman John Goncalves’ and the city council’s work on this resolution to increase vaccine update,” says Dr. Liz Goldberg, MD, ScM, Emergency Physician and Providence School Board Member.
Surrounding states including New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and Delaware have required their K-12 teachers to get vaccinated or go through weekly testing. Tonight’s resolution indicates that exemptions could be made for those with legitimate medical or religious restrictions.
“The School Board is working directly with the Superintendent and senior leadership at PPSD to support the District’s ongoing vaccination efforts. Increasing vaccination uptake is an important way to improve safety in our schools and we look forward to working collaboratively with our school partners to enhance uptake,” added Kinzel Thomas, President of the Providence School Board.
This resolution was co-sponsored by Councilwoman Kat Kerwin (Ward 12), Councilman Oscar Vargas (Ward 15), Councilwoman Helen Anthony (Ward 2), Councilor Rachel Miller (Ward 13), Councilor David Salvatore (Ward 14) Councilman Nicholas Narducci (Ward 4), Councilwoman Carmen Castillo (Ward 9) and Councilman Michael Correia (Ward 6) and was referred to the Committee on Ordinances.