• Council President John Igliozzi issues unprecedented address and calls for an independent audit to oversee the disbursement of $124 million in federal relief funds
• Council calls on RI DOT to reduce the speed limit on Allens Ave to 25 mph
• Council calls on Providence Housing to stimulate more affordable housing
• A final ordinance passed prohibiting the storage of liquid propane gas (LPG) in the city
• Councilors call on the administration to hire a consultant to understand the true status of all city-owned real estate for the possibility of developing affordable housing or other public services
Providence, RI – At tonight’s Providence City Council meeting, President John Igliozzi (Ward 7) set a serious and circumspect agenda for 2022, which includes holding the line on taxes, supporting police and public safety, as well as the importance of the once in a decade legislative process involving the Charter Review Commission and Ward Boundaries Committee. COVID-19 has decimated Providence’s restaurants, hotels, and small locally owned businesses. Many folks have lost jobs and cannot find housing. The city has an enormous responsibility of dispersing $124 million in American Rescue Plant Act recovery funds. “That is why, as part of the ARPA budget, I will be recommending the Council retain the services of an independent auditor to track, monitor, and prepare bi-weekly reports on ARPA expenditures. This will allow the Council and the public to monitor the progress of every ARPA dollar,” said Igliozzi.
Liquid Propane Gas
The City Council passed President Pro Tempore Pedro Espinal’s (Ward 10) ordinance prohibiting the storage of Liquid Propane Gas (LPG) in Providence. This legislation comes after Pro Tempore Espinal and community activists continued to advocate to stop outside corporations from increasing the storage of highly combustible LPG in the Port of Providence. While Liquid Natural Gas has long been prohibited in Providence due to its high risk of combusting, Espinal has led the effort to broaden this prohibition to Liquid Propane Gas. “Tonight’s ordinance is a big win for protecting the environment and neighborhoods in the Port of Providence. The families of South Providence have too often gotten the short end of the stick as an environmentally harmful industry is allowed to freely expand in their back yards. This ordinance puts Providence residents first and takes a stand against environmentally harmful business practices. I am grateful to my council colleagues and the many tireless community advocates who have joined me in the continued fight for public health, and environmental protection in our city,” said Espinal.
Councilwoman and Finance Committee Chair Jo-Ann Ryan (Ward 5) introduced and passed a resolution, that calls on the Providence Housing Authority to act with urgency and maximize its allocation of Project-Based Vouchers (PBV) to promote the development of affordable housing in the capital city. The 2001 federal housing law allows public housing agencies like the PHA to convert up to 20% of their Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) portfolios to Project-Based Vouchers. What’s the difference? HCVs travel with the family, commonly in one-off privately owned units. PBVs stay rooted in Providence and when coupled with other housing assistance resources, provide critical gap financing to otherwise unsustainable affordable housing developments. “The PHA is underutilizing this critical tool which creates affordable housing for disabled, elderly, and low-income households. Only 100 Project-Based Vouchers exist under the PHA. That’s about 4% of its portfolio and far too low. The PHA has a long way to go to stimulate construction and service the needs of residents looking for a place to call home,” said Ryan.
Tonight, Councilor David Salvatore (Ward 14) and the City Council passed resolution 35044, calling for the detailed analysis of all city-owned real estate, to identify possible areas to develop affordable housing. In September of 2020, the Council requested a list of all real estate owned by the city and the Providence Redevelopment Agency (PRA). Initial estimates show more than 150 city-owned vacant lots. “Right now, our city is seeing an unprecedented need for affordable housing. Through this resolution, and the assessments of our real estate, we can begin to utilize untapped resources to bring housing to the people of Providence,” said Councilman Salvatore. “I am excited to begin exploring potential avenues for dynamic and much-needed development of these otherwise unutilized parcels and buildings.” The Council is now calling for immediate site assessments of all real estate owned by the PRA and the city.
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.
Providence City Councilor David Salvatore and the Providence City Council are seeking applicants for the new Green and Complete Streets Advisory Council. The deadline to apply is Monday November 8th, 2021. Interested individuals may click here to apply: https://bit.ly/3nvMPHK.
The Green and Complete Streets ordinance was passed by the City Council in July 2021. Community advocates including AARP Rhode Island, the American Heart Association, Grow Smart Rhode Island, the Providence Streets Coalition, and WalkPVD, were consulted in the drafting of the ordinance to highlight significant concerns in Providence’s street infrastructure. The ordinance calls for the creation of an advisory council that will be responsible for making recommendations regarding roadway improvement projects that fall under the Green and Complete Street initiative.
“Green and complete streets will not only improve how residents and visitors move through our city, but will also add important quality of life enhancements. We are calling on our Providence residents to join the conversation and share their valuable input as Advisory Council members as we move forward with the implementation of this initiative,” stated Councilor Salvatore.
Green and Complete streets mean streets that are designed and operated to enable safe access for all users. The design guidelines ensure that pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and public transportation users of all ages and abilities can safely move along and across a street.
“The quality of roads in our neighborhoods are a key factor in the quality of life for pedestrians, drivers and bikers alike. Anyone who uses our city streets must feel safe doing so. Safety, accessibility and resiliency are what will push our city forward as we work towards a livable and sustainable future,” added the councilor.
Residents with expertise in civil engineering, architecture, city planning and environmental sustainability are especially needed on the advisory council. Older individuals and individuals with disabilities are encouraged to apply. Council advisors will serve in two-year terms.
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.
Councilor David Salvatore (Ward 14) announced that plans are underway to relocate and rededicate the Lafazia Square Monument on Admiral Street after the original monument was destroyed in June of this year. A new monument is being commissioned and will be placed at a new site at 389 Admiral Street. Additionally, to honor the life and service of Carlo Lafazia, Salvatore proposed a resolution , approved by the City Council on October 7th, to designate a portion of Admiral Street as ‘LaFazia Way.’
“I was shocked and saddened when I learned that the Lafazia Square Monument was damaged beyond repair this past summer. Carlo Lafazia made the ultimate sacrifice for our country and he and his family deserve the utmost respect and honor, as do all of our veterans, even 100 years later. Lafazia represents the history of Italian immigrants in our city and their indelible contribution to our city, state and nation,” stated Councilor David Salvatore.
Carlo Lafazia was a Providence-born veteran of World War I who was killed in action. Born in 1897 to Italian immigrants Domenico and Filomena Lafazia, Carlo Lafazia served as a Private 1st Class in the 16th Infantry Regiment.
The 16th was one of the first American battalions to land on French soil in June 1917. For more than a year, Private Lafazia and his fellow infantrymen fought the Germans who were holding the Argonne Forest along the Western Front. On October 11th, 1918, just one month before the November 11th Armistice, Private Lafazia was killed fighting in the Meuse Argonne Offensive.
“Several years after the war ended, the United States disinterred the bodies of 14,000 American soldiers from French cemeteries so that they could be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Sadly, Carlo Lafazia was not among them, and could not be laid to rest at home because his remains were never found. While his memory was not afforded that honor, thanks to the Providence City Council and the City of Providence Special Committee for the Review of Commemorative Works, Carlo Lafazia’s sacrifice will not be forgotten,” stated Jeremiah C. O’Connor Sr., nephew of Carlo Lafazia.
Private Lafazia was called an “Emblem of Italian loyalty to the Stars and Stripes,” and was honored by the Providence Board of Aldermen on August 3rd, 1933, when they dedicated the original memorial square in his honor. Lafazia Square was re-dedicated by the Providence City Council on November 11th, 2017 after it was restored from an earlier defacement.
The new memorial and commemorative street designation are set to be dedicated in Spring 2022.
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.