Public Health & Recreation

Coalition Building Against Allens Avenue Waste Facility

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PROVIDENCE — A formidable and diverse opposition movement is growing against a proposed waste-processing and transfer station on Allens Avenue.

At a Feb. 19 community meeting, residents, organizations, and elected officials from across the city announced their objection to Allens Providence Recycling LLC, a facility proposed by developer William Thibeault of Everett, Mass.

“We are in this to the end. There is no way this is going forward,” said John M. Kelly, president of Meeting Street — an education complex not far from the site proposed for a waste-processing facility.

Kelly mentioned the $30 million invested in the community to build the education center and noted that work is underway for another $15 million project at the school. Most of all, he stressed the health and environmental risks to Meeting Street’s 500 students and to the students in other schools close to the proposed site, a brownfield.

One after another, members of the City Council and Police Department and neighborhood residents spoke of how the project will pollute and disrupt South Providence and Washington Park.

Ward 10 City Council member Pedro Espinal spoke of verbal and written commitments of opposition from Mayor Jorge Elorza, Senate President Dominick Ruggerio, and several members of the House and Senate who oppose the project.

“We have to stand strong and stand united because this community is not in any condition to accept anything like that,” Espinal said.

City Council president Sabina Matos presented a resolution objecting to the project. The City Council will endorse the resolution at its Feb. 20 meeting, she said.

Police officer Joseph Amoroso, the city’s lone officer overseeing commercial vehicle enforcement, said the volume of trucks and the design of the facility would disrupt traffic, including access to Interstate 95. He noted that the developer has yet to submit a traffic study and plan for the site at the corner of Thurbers and Allens avenues.

“It would strain our resources to enforce that much commercial vehicle traffic,” Police Lt. James Barros said.

Yeimy Bakemon-Morel, a 22-year resident of Washington Park, wanted to know why the city and state continue to force polluting projects on her neighborhood.

“I think that it is beautiful that all of us are here, that we are united,” she said. “Now is the time to raise our voices to move forward and to make it stop, and to finally answer why Ward 10 and not somewhere else?”

Activist groups pledged to organize against the project at the March 17 meeting of the City Planning Commission and to canvas South Providence on Feb. 29 to collect signatures and build opposition to the project.

Sen. Josh Miller, D-Cranston, whose district includes portions of South Providence, read a letter of opposition signed by Ruggerio and four other members of the Senate.

Miller said trucks in that area are frequently diverted to drive in front of houses and schools because of poor transportation infrastructure.

Espinal described the traffic congestion that will worsen if 188 trucks delivering 5-7 million pounds of waste daily to the proposed facility at the busy corner next to I-95. Operations would run from 5 a.m.-10 p.m. six days a week, with odors and dust emanating from open bays at the massive warehouse-type structure.

Espinal noted that the site is within a city-designated climate justice community.

Gov. Gina Raimondo didn’t respond to a request for comment on the project.

Dr. Andrew Saal, a physician and medical director of the Providence Community Health Centers, said 500 of the 8,000 patients served by a heath center off Allens Avenue suffer from asthma and emphysema.

“Any such development needs to be sane,” Saal said, “because these are our brothers, our sisters, our parents, our families, and these are our children right here at ground zero.”

One of those residents, Taina Rosario, said she takes four medications for the asthma she was stricken by after moving to Washington Park.

Will Speck of the Providence Democratic Socialists of America applauded the coalition but chided business leaders and politicians for not speaking out against National Grid’s gas-liquefaction facility on Allens Avenue that the state approved in 2018.

“You all were surprisingly absent when National Grid was victimizing this community,” Speck said.

Former City Council member Sam Zurier said he found a provision in the zoning code that should kill the project quickly. The ordinance states that only city or state entities may open a transfer station, thus the Zoning Board of Review, City Council, and City Planning Commission have an excuse to reject the project.

“This might be the simplest way to solve this,” Zurier said.

Youngster Xiomara Rodríguez-Drix spoke last about driving too much and reducing waste.

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  1. What Rhode Island needs is a comprehensive plan to put healing ecosystems and communities at the heart of its economic development planning. We need that in our tax structure, environmental regulations, and zoning codes. But in communities strait jacketed into the property tax games for revenue, the system is breaking down and its replacement is still marginalized. So we get transfer stations as economic development and more asthma in all the neighborhoods that border the port.

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