Councilman John Goncalves Proposes Ordinance Requiring Notice of Demolition to Council Representative

Councilman John Goncalves Proposes Ordinance Requiring Notice of Demolition to Council Representative

At last night’s City Council meeting, Councilman John Goncalves (Ward 1) proposed a change to the Providence Code of Ordinances which would require a building official to provide written notice to their City Council representative upon the issuance of a demolition permit. This ordinance was co-sponsored by Council President John J. Igliozzi Esq. (Ward 7), Council President Pro Tempore Pedro Espinal (Ward 10), Majority Leader Jo-Ann Ryan (Ward 5), Deputy Majority Leader Mary Kay Harris (Ward 11), Councilwoman Helen Anthony (Ward 2), Councilwoman Nirva LaFortune (Ward 3), Councilman James Taylor (Ward 8), Councilwoman Kat Kerwin (Ward 12), Councilor Rachel Miller (Ward 13), and Councilor David Salvatore (Ward 14).

“Recently, a beloved building in the Fox Point neighborhood was demolished, to the surprise of myself and the local community. Not only was this demolition project an inconvenience to residents of the area, it also was at the location of the former Duck & Bunny; a landmark of the Fox Point neighborhood,” stated Councilman John Goncalves (Ward 1).

Under current City law, building officials are not required to notify the City Council or the local neighborhood when a demolition permit has been issued. The proposal would require that written notice be given to the Council representative. This will allow for proper communication to be made between various City Departments, and ensure that residents and businesses surrounding the demolition site are made aware of the upcoming operations in their neighborhood.

“As a City, we work best when communication is open and reliable. As a City Councilman, I know I can better serve my constituents when I am aware of all developments in our Ward. Residents of any neighborhood deserve to know about major plans for construction or demolition which could affect their property, quality of life, safety or the integrity of our neighborhood. Moving forward, I hope this ordinance will encourage an open line of communication between building officials, City operations and residents,” added Councilman Goncalves.

The ordinance has been referred to the Committee on Ordinances for further review.

City Council’s Committee on Ordinances Approves Zone Change for Former St. Joseph’s Hospital

City Council’s Committee on Ordinances Approves Zone Change for Former St. Joseph’s Hospital

The facility will be a new state-of-the-art school for the City of Providence,
and will be a significant investment in the Broad Street corridor.

Tonight, the Council’s Committee on Ordinances chaired by Majority Leader Jo-Ann Ryan (Ward 5) approved a zoning change to the former St. Joseph’s Hospital. The property is currently owned by Paolino Properties, and it will be donated to the City of Providence. The building will be transformed into a state-of-the-art school as part of the City’s $300 million rehabilitation and reconstruction of the City’s school infrastructure. The new school will span across seven acres at 21 Peace Street, and the development is expected to become an economic catalyst for the South Providence neighborhood.

“First and foremost, I want to express my thanks to former Mayor Paolino for his generous donation to the City of Providence. This project will be a significant economic stimulus for the Broad Street corridor, and this is a great collaboration between the community and the petitioner. I want to also commend my colleague, Deputy Majority Leader Mary Kay Harris, for her dedication and advocacy in making sure that this project was done right and has the best interest of the neighborhood and our students in mind. As we work to turn our 20th-century schools into 21st-century places of learning, we must ensure that our students are top of mind. We can use this property as a template for what a 21st-century school can become. With this kind of neighborhood activation – the possibilities are endless for new development,” stated Chairwoman of the Committee on Ordinances and Majority Leader Jo-Ann Ryan.

After a public meeting in January of this year, and after several committee meetings where neighbors raised concerns regarding how the building will be used, the City and the petitioner worked to create changes to the original plan. The changes address those concerns and codify uses for the property. The property will be zoned to accommodate housing, educational facilities, office spaces, or recreational facilities. Former Mayor Paolino is donating the East Building, the chapel, and parking lot to the City of Providence, and the value of his generous donation is estimated to be approximately $7 million.

Deputy Majority Leader Mary Kay Harris (Ward 11) and a member of the Committee on Ordinances shared, “I am thankful to former Mayor Paolino and Paolino Properties for listening to the concerns of my community. For too long, South Providence residents have not had a seat at the table when it came to redevelopment and other important building initiatives in our neighborhood. With the support of Majority Leader Ryan and my colleagues on the Committee on Ordinances, we made sure that we addressed the residents’ concerns, and I thank all those who participated in this process. There is no doubt that we need this space to provide an amazing new school for South Providence residents. I am pleased that the commitment to the building’s uses alleviates much of my neighbors’ concerns expressed over the past several months. I look forward to seeing the building in use and to what the future holds for our neighborhood.”

The 8-story building is located in South Providence and will become a state-of-the-art dual-language school for students in pre-K through 8th grade. The property reconstruction is scheduled for completion in time for the start of the 2024-2025 school year. The zoning change will be sent to the full City Council for vote and passage.

“Every Providence student deserves a high-quality education in a modern, safe school building, and today’s vote brings us one step closer to making that goal a reality,” said Harrison Peters, superintendent of Providence Public Schools. “I appreciate the City Council’s commitment to working in partnership with the community as we move forward with this exciting project and want to again thank former Mayor Joseph Paolino for his generous donation.”

The estimated cost for the transformation of St. Joseph’s Hospital is estimated at around $75 million and will be funded through bonding initiatives previously approved by the Providence City Council. The first being a $160 million bond approved in 2018 and the second approved in 2020. Both bonds were voted and approved by the residents of Providence.

To learn more about the school rehabilitation and reconstruction plans, visit: School Capital Plan Projects

Providence City Councilor’s Call for Environmental Compliance in the Port of Providence

Providence City Councilor’s Call for Environmental Compliance in the Port of Providence

Tonight, Councilman Pedro Espinal (Ward 10) introduced a resolution, which was passed, calling for more environmental controls and compliance in the Port of Providence after last week’s fire. The resolution is co-sponsored by Council President Sabina Matos (Ward 15), Majority Leader Jo-Ann Ryan (Ward 5), Deputy Majority Leader Mary Kay Harris (Ward 11), Senior Deputy Majority Leader Nicholas J. Narducci Jr. (Ward 4), Councilman John Goncalves (Ward 1), Councilwoman Helen Anthony (Ward 2), Councilman Michael Correia (Ward 6), Councilor Rachel Miller (Ward 13), Councilman John J. Igliozzi Esq. (Ward 7), Councilwoman Carmen Castillo (Ward 9), Councilor David Salvatore (Ward 14), Councilwoman Nirva LaFortune (Ward 3) and Councilman James Taylor (Ward 8).

“After the fire at the scrap yard on Allen’s Avenue last week, it has become even more pressing that we need to have better environmental controls and compliance by the businesses who are working in the Port of Providence. Last year, I introduced and passed an Ordinance to protect the Port and other areas of the City from becoming a wasteland. Yet, these existing businesses continue to pollute our neighborhoods and potentially our waterways. I want these businesses to do better, be safer, and to transition as best they can to cleaner and safer practices,” stated Councilman Pedro Espinal.

The Port of Providence and Allens Avenue neighborhoods have the highest asthma rates in the state and are ranked ninth in the Country. According to the Rhode Island Department of Health, these neighborhoods have some of the highest emergency department visits among children on Medicaid with asthma in the City of Providence.

“One of the greatest crises that we are facing as a society is climate change, and the damage that is being done to the environment by businesses like scrap yards and other ‘dirty’ businesses. As a city and state, we want businesses to operate and flourish here, but we can’t have that at the expense of our residents and our natural environment. I share my colleague’s concerns and hope that we can move to more environmentally friendly business practices in the Port,” shared Councilman John Goncalves.

Through this resolution, the Council is calling on the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, who is tasked with ensuring compliance with State and Federal environmental regulations at the Port, to provide them a copy of all Notices of Violation issued to businesses and property owners located in the Port of Providence for the past ten years.

“Thankfully, last week’s incident did not result in any injuries or damages, and it should serve as a wake-up call to the entire City. The scrap yards and other businesses located around the Port can cause significant negative environmental and health impacts on the community, which is why my colleagues and I call for better oversight of the businesses around the Port. It is only a matter of time before the surrounding communities are put in jeopardy due to a lack of environmental compliance,” continued Councilman Espinal.

Copies of the resolution will be sent to Mayor Jorge O. Elorza, Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha, Director Janet Coit of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, and the members of the Providence Delegation at the Rhode Island General Assembly.

City Council Acts to Protect Residents from Aggressive Application of Receivership Program

City Council Acts to Protect Residents from Aggressive Application of Receivership Program

Providence City Council to Limit the Jurisdiction of the Housing Court as it Pertains to Receiverships

The City Council passed for the second and final time passed an Ordinance that would limit the Providence Housing Court’s jurisdiction pertaining to receiverships. The ordinance was introduced by Councilor Kat Kerwin (Ward 12), Council President Sabina Matos (Ward 15), Majority Leader Jo-Ann Ryan (Ward 5), Senior Deputy Majority Leader Nicholas J. Narducci Jr. (Ward 4), Deputy Majority Leader Mary Kay Harris (Ward 11), and Councilors Nirva LaFortune (Ward 3), Helen Anthony (Ward 2), Rachel Miller (Ward 13), Pedro Espinal (Ward 10), and John Goncalves (Ward 1).

The receivership program was initially started to address blighted and neglected properties throughout the City of Providence. However, in the years since that implementation private entities have begun to use the program as a way to displace homeowners and cause further inequities in our housing market.

“As councilors, it is our duty to protect our neighbors from predatory private interests whose goal is to profit off of those most vulnerable in our community. I am proud that our Council is taking a stand and refusing to allow these interests from taking homes away from hard-working residents, and I hope the state will follow suit and pass legislation that prevents this same predatory behavior in Superior Court,” stated Councilor Katherine Kerwin

This ordinance addresses the Providence Housing Court’s authority to hear receivership cases by limiting the Court’s jurisdiction to only those that have been filed by the City of Providence or the Providence Redevelopment Agency. Private actors such as abutter’s and non-profits will still have the opportunity to pursue receivership cases; however, they will now be required to utilize the Rhode Island Superior Court to do so. Receivership cases in the housing context may be filed pursuant to Rhode Island General Law §34-44, the Abandoned Property Act, and it is this state law procedure that allows private actors to petition abandoned properties into receivership for purposes of rehabilitation. This ordinance will ensure that the Providence Housing Court’s review of receivership cases will only occur in instances where the City of Providence or the Providence Redevelopment Agency have deemed it necessary to pursue such an action.

“I would like to applaud Councilwoman Kerwin for her swift action and attention to this matter. Her advocacy and determination are what public service is all about. During our Committee on Ordinances meeting on this matter, we had a robust and productive discussion about how we preserve our housing stock and ensure that our residents are being treated fairly. I would also like to thank the City Solicitor’s office for its guidance. This ordinance is all about protecting residents from unintended abuse of the cities streamlined receivership program,” shared Majority Leader and Chairwoman on the Committee on Ordinances Jo-Ann Ryan.

The Housing Court enforces the municipal ordinances and state laws governing minimum residential requirements, lead paint abatement, zoning, and building requirements to the end that all the people in the City of Providence be housed in dwellings that are safe, sanitary, and fit for human habitation and that all structures be utilized per state and municipal lead, code, zoning, and building laws, in the belief that such enforcement will protect and promote the health, safety and general welfare of the people of the City of Providence and fulfill the City’s Mission of creating and maintaining healthy neighborhoods. In fulfilling its mission, the Housing Court will seek to achieve enforcement and safeguard public health and safety without impairing property ownership.

“As elected officials, we must work to protect our residents in all ways, and this ordinance will make it the purview of the State Superior Courts to award receiverships by private entities. Our community is hurting financially because of the ongoing pandemic, and we need to act to protect our homeowners and housing stock in the City. I want to thank Councilor Kerwin for her leadership and all my colleagues who co-sponsored this important legislation,” stated Council President Sabina Matos.

Ordinance: Limit the Jurisdiction of the Housing Court

Council Supports State Efforts to Protect Rhode Islanders from Harmful Chemicals in our Water Supply & Food Packaging

Council Supports State Efforts to Protect Rhode Islanders from Harmful Chemicals in our Water Supply & Food Packaging

Tonight the Providence City Council passed two resolutions, sponsored by Councilor Rachel Miller (Ward 13), to support several initiatives before the Rhode Island General Assembly to reduce Perfluorinated and Poly-Fluorinated Alkyl Substances (PFAS) in Rhode Island’s water supply and in food packaging in our state. The resolutions were co-sponsored by Council President Sabina Matos (Ward 15), Majority Leader Jo-Ann Ryan (Ward 5),Deputy Majority Leader Mary Kay Harris (Ward 11), Chairman John J. Igliozzi Esq. (Ward 7), Councilors Helen Anthony (Ward 2), Carmen Castillo (Ward 9), John Goncalves (Ward 1), and Kat Kerwin (Ward 12), Pedro Espinal (Ward 10), James Taylor (Ward 8), and Nirva LaFortune (Ward 3).

The first resolution supports and urges the passage of House Bill 2021 H-5523 and Senate Bill 2021 S-107, which will require the RI Department of Health to set a Maximum Contaminant Level for PFAS and requires that our public waterways and drinking supply be sampled and monitored for PFAS contamination. The second resolution supports and urges the passage of House Bill 2021 H-5356 and Senate Bill 2021 S-0110, which eliminate the manufacture, sale, and distribution of food packaging to which PFAS have been added.

“These initiatives in our General Assembly and State Senate are significant steps in the effort to improve food and water safety in Rhode Island. PFAS are persistent chemicals that are known to cause harm to humans and the environment. It is time for the Department of Health and the Department of Environmental Management to take action to set standards and testing protocols to protect the health and safety of Rhode Islanders. I know that my colleagues in government trust science and believe that we should do everything we can to protect and care for the health and safety of Rhode Islanders and our environment. PFAS have been linked to cancer, developmental issues in children, problems with fertility and pregnancy, and a host of other serious health problems. That is why we must act now to reduce these harmful chemicals from our food and water,” stated Councilor Rachel Miller.

PFAS are highly persistent chemicals that have been widely used in consumer products since the 1948. They are often used in food packaging to prevent grease and other fats from sticking to the paper packaging. However, PFAS are released during production processes and remain in the environment for long periods, entering the air and bodies of water. Because of this widespread contamination, PFAS can often be found in the blood of both humans and wildlife. Over the years, concern has grown regarding the health consequences of frequent exposure to PFAS.

“One of the most precious resources we have in the State of Rhode Island is the Narragansett Bay, and we must do whatever we can to protect this natural resource. Further, PFAS that end up in our water inevitably end up in our sea life. As a state with a robust seafood industry, we have to protect and preserve the catch’s quality. Doing so will protect jobs and this important economic generator. I applaud Councilor Miller for working to ensure that we are supporting important green and healthy initiatives at the General Assembly, and I too add my voice to the chorus of my colleagues who want to see these bills pass and enacted,” stated Majority Leader Jo-Ann Ryan.

The resolutions passed, and copies will be sent to the Rhode Island General Assembly and the Providence Delegation.

City Council Acts to Protect Residents from Aggressive Application of Receivership Program

Providence City Council Calls on the United States Senate to Pass the Equality Act

Tonight, the Providence City Council members voted to pass a resolution urging the United States Senate to pass the Equality Act. The resolution was sponsored by Councilor Rachel Miller (Ward 13). It was Co-sponsored by Council President Sabina Matos (Ward 15), Majority Leader Jo-Ann Ryan (Ward 5), Deputy Majority Leader Mary Kay Harris (Ward 11), Majority Whip John J. Igliozzi, Esq. (Ward 7), and Councilors Helen Anthony, Esq. (Ward 2), Carmen Castillo (Ward 9), John Goncalves (Ward 1), Kat Kerwin (Ward 12), Councilman Pedro Espinal (Ward 10), Councilman James Taylor (Ward 8), and Councilman Nirva LaFortune (Ward 3)

The Equality Act was introduced to the House of Representatives by Rhode Island Congressman David Cicilline and in the Senate by Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon in 2015, 2017, 2019, and 2021. It was finally passed by the United States House of Representatives in 2019 and 2021 but has died in the United States Senate committee. After the United States Supreme Court’s June 2020 ruling in the Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, which upheld protections for gay and transgender individuals in employment matters under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and its subsequent amendments, now there is more support in the Senate for passage. The City Council members are urging the body to take this bold and meaningful action to codify the rights of every person living in the United States.

“First, I want to thank our Federal Delegation, especially Congressman Cicilline, who has worked doggedly on this act for the past seven years. Even as it languished in the House and Senate, he still believed that the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community were worth the battle. I am proud that he represents Rhode Island and am grateful for his leadership. The Equality Act will codify and protect against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, which has been missing from the Civil Rights Act for decades. The Equality Act wil also protect against discrimination in the workplace, in housing, in health care, and even in financial lending,” stated Councilor Rachel Miller.

The Equality Act will amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Fair Housing Act, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, the Jury Selection and Services Act, and several other federal laws around employment and discrimination in public spaces, services, and federally funded programs.

“Former United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg once stated, ‘We should not be held back from pursuing our full talents, from contributing what we could contribute to society, because we fit into a certain mold, because we belong to a group that historically has been the object of discrimination.’ With that statement, she was referring to what women have endured for generations. It is equally true for LGBTQIA+ communities that face higher rates of suicide, bullying, and the alarming rates of murder amongst transgender women. The Senate must pass the Equality Act, and I know that our Rhode Island Delegation is supportive, and I hope that we can all agree that discrimination of any kind needs to be removed from our legal system,” stated Council President Sabina Matos.

Many studies have shown that members of the LGBTQIA+ community face high levels of discrimination in housing. The bias is noted to come in many different ways: being denied housing, charged higher rents, or being removed from housing once a landlord realizes the orientation or the gender expression of the renters. Additionally, the Equality Act will add protections to LGBTQIA+ individuals living in 27 states which do not have state-wide LGBTQIA+ anti-discrimination laws.

“There are currently 27 states where, as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, my right to be free from discrimination in employment, housing, and other civil protections is not protected by law. I am proud to be a member of this body that tonight took a stance for equality for all,” concluded Councilor Miller.

Copies of the resolution will be sent to the Rhode Island Congressional Delegation. The City Council members hope that the United States Senate will pass Senate Bill 393 – The Equality Act.

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