Opposition to the proposed Port garbage transfer station intensifies

“We have to stand together, stand strong, united, because this community cannot, under any conditions, accept anything like [this transfer station],” said Providence City Councilmember Pedro Espinal (Ward 10). Last night residents of Washington Park and neighboring communities were joined by politicians and environmental justice activists at the Meeting Street School on Eddy Street to discuss their opposition to a

Published on February 20, 2020
By Steve Ahlquist

We have to stand together, stand strong, united, because this community cannot, under any conditions, accept anything like [this transfer station],” said Providence City Councilmember Pedro Espinal (Ward 10).

Last night residents of Washington Park and neighboring communities were joined by politicians and environmental justice activists at the Meeting Street School on Eddy Street to discuss their opposition to a newly proposed transfer station at the intersection of Thurbers and Allens Avenue. If Providence city officials approve the project, the facility would process over 2,500 tons of solid waste per day and potentially operate 24/7, further adding to the diesel truck traffic and road congestion on Allens Avenue and neighboring streets, bringing over 200 trucks per day to the area.

Further, the facility itself will be the source of potentially toxic air and groundwater pollutants. This area of Providence already has the highest rates of asthma in Rhode Island.

Pedro Espinal and Linda Perry

But there is some good news. Opposition to the project has manifested in the Providence City Council due to the efforts of newly elected Ward 10 Providence City Councilmember Pedro Espinal, who called last night’s community meeting. Tonight (February 20) the Providence City Council will take up a resolution encouraging the City Plan Commission to not support the project. That resolution has the support of Providence City Council President Sabina Matos.

Further, Rhode Island State Senators Joshua Miller (Democrat, District 28, Cranston) and Ana Quezada (Democrat, District 2, Providence) announced to those in attendance a letter of opposition to the project from members of the Rhode Island Senate, including Senate President Dominick Ruggerio (Democrat, District 4, Providence). (See below for the letter.)

Ana Quezada and Joshua Miller

Former Ward Two Providence City Councilmember Sam Zurier took a look at the zoning coe and thinks that there is a very real possibility that the transfer station could be rejected by the City Plan Commission under the current law.

“There is a pretty simple prohibition in the zoning code that would prevent this transfer station from going forward,” said Zurier. “Our zoning code currently says that the only types of transfer stations that are permitted are ones that are ‘operated by or for a state or municipal agency.'”

Though there are environmental and health considerations to be taken into account, and those problems need to be aired and addressed, “this project right now is a legal proceeding and they need to operate based on what the law says… If this works it gives the planning commission and the Zoning Board a very simple way to reject this project.”

Here are Zurier’s full comments:

These efforts are by no means surefire ways to kill the proposed project, so the community will be pushing hard over the next weeks and months to let their voices be heard.

  • The meeting of the City Plan Commission, where the project will be vetted and public comment will be heard, will be on March 17 at 4:45pm at 444 Westminster Street in Providence. This is a very important meeting and people are encouraged to show up in support.
  • On March 11 is the next meeting of the Washington Park Neighborhood Association. The plan is to invite the applicant to meet with the community about the proposed transfer station. That meeting will be held at the Washington Park Community Center.
  • On February 29 you have the opportunity to join neighborhood folks while they door-knock in Washington Park and South Side of Providence to bring more information about a proposed transfer station on the already burdened community. People will be meeting outside the Washington Park Library at noon and will knock doors for three hours. Here’s the Facebook event.
  • Also, there will be an event at the site of the proposed transfer station, the corner of Thurbers and Allens Avenue, where people will be holding signs and making noise to call attention to the project and to the communities opposition. Full details on that event are coming, but it will happen before the City Plan Commission meeting on March 17. Organizers stress that this will be a peaceful event.
  • Update (2020-02-21): The resolution was withdrawn due to legal concerns about the language. It will be re-introduced at the next Providence City Council meeting. Tonight, Februarry 20, at the Providence City Council meeting, the resolution in opposition to the transfer station will be heard. 7pm at the Providence City Hall downtown.

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not highlight this amazing presentation from Xiomara Rodríguez-Drix, who called us all out:

Here’s the letter, which is also signed by Senators Harold Metts (Democrat, District 6, Providence) and Maryellen Goodwin (Democrat, District 1, Providence):

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Previous reporting:

Linda Perry, President of the Washington Park Neighborhood Association:

Providence City Councilmember Pedro Espinal:

“We are absolutely opposed to this, no ifs, ands or buts,” said Meeting Street School President John Kelly. “We are in this to the end there is no way this is going forward.”

“We are standing with the community here, standing against this proposed garbage depot,” said Kevin Budris, an attorney with the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF). “There’s only one other transfer station in all of Rhode Island that processes [2500 tons of waste per day]. Not a single transfer station in Connecticut or a single transfer station in Massachusetts processes this much waste.

“And they want to bring all of this to a parcel that’s less that four acres in size…

Councilmember Espinal talked about the enormous numbers of trucks this project will bring to the area. Representatives from the Providence Police Department noted that such additional truck traffic would strain their ability to enforce traffic ordinances.

Doug Victor, from the Elmwood/Southside Crime Watch:

Additional concerns about increased truck traffic:

Espinal and Council President Matos talk about the resolution they are introducing:

Senators Miller and Quezada talk about the letter from the Senate in opposition to the transfer station:

Monica Huertas, a member of the Racial and Environmental Justice Committee, addresses the crowd.

Dr Andrew Saul, director Providence Community Health Centers, noted that his group has a facility 500 feet away from the site of the proposed transfer station. 8000 men, women and children get primary care there. “Of those 8000, 500 are living with asthma and emphysema…”

The clinic also has two full time asthma specialists on staff. “Why does your neighborhood need two full time asthma care specialists? I think the evidence is right here in front of us,” said Saul.

Taina Rosario never had asthma before moving to Washington Park:

“I’m really glad to see all the business leaders and elected officials standing up for the community now,” said Will Speck, a co-chair from the Providence Democratic Socialists of America. “Because you all were surprisingly absent when National Grid was victimizing this community…

Eduardo Marines, a realtor:

A 22-year resident of the neighborhood asked, “Why Ward 10?”

Raul A Mejia:

Linda Perry wraps things up:

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