Local Lawmakers Stress Need for Washington Park, South Providence Residents to be Heard
April 19, 2023
PROVIDENCE — Rep. José Batista and Sen. Tiara Mack have called on state officials for more transparent community input and conversation, saying South Providence and Washington Park continue to be targeted for unsafe, neighborhood-eroding proposals without input from the community, even after years of public recognition that the area has long borne an outsized share of Rhode Island’s most burdensome development.
The neighborhoods of South Providence and Washington Park are connected by Allens Avenue — the state’s most toxic roadway. Residents, businesses, schools, and health clinics in the area are forced to deal with a headache-inducing stink, heavy truck traffic, illegally idling vehicles, and government officials who have long done little to reduce the unfair burden placed on these communities in the name of economic growth.
The two Democratic legislators held a joint news conference April 19 to oppose the closure of Alan Shawn Feinstein Elementary School on Broad Street and the expansion of Rhode Island Recycled Metals. The Allens Avenue scrapyard has received increased criticism and scrutiny from residents and environmental justice advocates since it opened illegally in 2009 without the proper permits.
The Providence Public School District, which is currently run by the state, faced criticism last December when news leaked that Alan Shawn Feinstein Elementary and another city school would be closed, without any input from or notification to the school community.
The owners of Rhode Island Recycled Metals, the waterfront scrapyard that has been subject to long-running environmental violation complaints by the state Department of Environmental Management, recently bought an adjacent 9.8-acre property with plans to expand operations.
“South Providence and Washington Park are already burdened with an LNG terminal, a growing commercial port, an asphalt plant, a huge and potentially expanding scrapyard that pollutes our waterfront and resists regulation, and one of the widest, busiest sections of interstate highway in Rhode Island,” said Batista, a lifelong South Providence resident who grew up with asthma. “Our kids suffer from alarmingly high asthma rates from the resulting pollution. Our neighborhood deserves much better, and we absolutely deserve a chance to speak up and be heard about the developments that continue to be pushed on us.”
Mack said the people of their districts “deserve to be listened to about their needs, their concerns, and their hopes about the future of their neighborhood.”
“What does it say for our state when we continue to use a neighborhood that is predominantly Black, brown, and low-income as the place for everything people don’t want in their own neighborhoods?” she said. “Our constituents deserve a voice in all these matters and we will not sit silent as our neighborhood is harmed time and time again.”