Why Open Space Is Important

There is a new local environmental movement afoot in Cranston called “Save Cranston’s Open Space.” I spoke with one of the leaders of the organization, Rachel McNally, today. She and at least 100 other families in the Oak Hill section of Cranston are strongly opposed to any commercial development of the land which is currently owned by Mulligan’s Island. This property is under consideration by developer Churchill and Banks and they are proposing a large commercial development. Details of the development and what is at stake are here at the “Save Cranston’s Open Space” website.

Rachel McNally explained that while a presentation from Churchill and Banks to the city’s planning commission was withdrawn, they remain concerned that other commercial development proposals will be considered. She is quoted in this Projo article:

Rachel McNally, one of the organizers of the opposition group, said yesterday that the postponement means little to neighbors who are committed to stopping the project or any other proposal that would erode open space and run counter to the Comprehensive Plan.  [full text]

Anyone who has known me for more than a few years knows why this issue is particularly important to me. Three years ago, my family agreed to sell a parcel of 55 acres to open space in Tolland, Connecticut. This land, the Stoppleworth Conservation Area, runs alongside and behind the 85 acre Campbell Peaceful Valley, adding an additional 55 acres to the open space.

Campbell Peaceful Valley is a wonderful place to go hiking. The property is also important geologically, as described by Anthony Philpotts of the University of Connecticut’s geology department, who is delivering a lecture above on the peak of Campbell Peaceful Valley, which abuts the land which my family added to the open space.

I am obviously very proud of the involvement my family has had with conserving open space. Developers were chomping at the bit when we were negotiating the terms of our sale with the town. Though we agreed not to advertise the property for sale and to give the town right of first refusal, developers were still calling me and visiting my mother. If developed residentially, or in other ways, the land was worth substantially more than the price we agreed to accept from the town. My mother’s rationale was that we would get a fair market price out of them but we would not hold out forever because we wanted the land to be sold and made open space, to expand the Campbell Peaceful Valley. We are by no means a financially wealthy family so this was not a profit-making enterprise so much as a conscious decision to be a part of the history of preserving open space.

We negotiated in good faith a covenant with the town of Tolland that swears that the land will remain open space “in perpetuity.” They also allowed us to put a bench on the property, which we installed deep in the woods beside one of the small brooks, in honor of my father, who shrewdly took what little savings he had and purchased the land back in 1975 (for $32,000!). My father loved the land and I joined him many times as a child, going on Saturday mornings to cut up a fallen tree (or one intentionally cut down) and load it into the flatbed of our old yellow Ford pick-up.

The situation with the Mulligan’s Island land is different, but there is a shared sense that the community committed to preserving open space and protecting residential areas from rampant development. As referenced in the 1992 Comprehensive plan for the city, the Mulligan’s Island land is zoned as “Mixed Use Planned District.” Neighbors fought to make sure Mulligan’s Island was not a big development, and they are planning to continue the fight to keep that property from being developed any further.

I join with my neighbors in Oak Hill in opposing commercial development of this property. We need to continue to honor our commitments to protecting residential areas and open space. It is clear from the last comprehensive plan that the city wrote in 1992, that this was an important theme. Specifically, “the cornfields,” as the area now owned by Mulligan’s Island was previously known, was “not recommended for major economic development initiatives because of its proximity to nearby residential areas and a recreational site.”

Municipalities need to be held responsible for their commitments to residential communities and open space. They frequently try to violate their own prior commitments, and they need the community to remind them that this is not acceptable.

But beyond the principle of honoring prior commitments, the city also has to make sure that developments undertaken in Cranston are worth the toll they exact. In the cost-benefit analysis, the income from tax revenue needs to be enough to justify the accommodations made. Rachel McNally told me that the developer estimated the city of Cranston would reap about $800,000 in tax revenue from their proposed big box and gas stations development. But the budget for Cranston is about $250 million dollars a year — approximately a quarter billion dollars. The profits from this development would be less than 1% of the overall budget for the city. This is not much when you consider the environmental, noise, safety and economic impacts of this kind of development.

And a final question: do we really want to drive another nail in the coffin of local small businesses? Do we really want to more fully embrace this national trend of gutting our older commercial areas and creating huge new ones? I agree with the city’s plan that calls for the creative reuse of commercial areas already built.

64 thoughts on “Why Open Space Is Important

  1. Thank you for your support and how beautifully you expressed yourself on this subject. I have lived in the Oak Hill neighborhood for the past thirty-three years and am very concerned and opposed to development of this site. We have a huge battle in front of us so to read your site is encouraging and inspiring, not to mention the right use of the land.

  2. I am beginning to believe that we – the citizen-taxpayers of Cranston – are under siege.

    Consider the following issues that are threatening our way of life:

    Cullion/Karleetor Concrete Batching Plant construction in Eden Park,

    Big Box development plans in Oak Hill,

    Wetlands destruction and mall plans by Garabedian and Co. on Atwood Avenue in Knightsville,

    Stalled Park Cinema development in Auburn,

    Unchecked expansion by Domestic Bank in Forest Hills.

    I’m sure I missed a few, like our balooning tax burden, but the point is that Cranston faces a number of challenges now and in the future. Our elected officials *must* step up to the plate and fight for us.

    So Senators, Mr. Mayor, City Councilors, please spare us the empty campaign rhetoric – we need action, not words.

  3. Kiersten, Thank you for your support of Cranston’s environment and how you described your own challenges and the success you had in ensuring the protection of open space.

    As a City Councilor and even before I served on the City Council, I have been protecting our environment by the creation of open space and voting to ensure protection of those areas. And anyone who knows of the work I have been doing for the last 9 years knows that the future of Cranston and our unique neighborhoods are of high importance to me.

    I have voted and advocated to our State Officials and Departments on a number of occasion to ensure opportunities over the years for “Open Space.� Just consider some of these projects that I have been involved in:

    Ø Creation of Curran State Park;
    Ø Creation of the City’s Bike Path;
    Ø Creation of the City’s Historic Farm Route;
    Ø Creation of a neighborhood Community Garden off Webster Avenue;
    Ø Creation of City Farms in Western Cranston;
    Ø Supported creation of Mulligan’s Island as an “Open Space� project;
    Ø Support the creation of responsible development of the old police station but against the removal of the wetlands surrounding the recreational area.
    Ø Support the opportunity of transferring City owned parcels of “Open Space� to groups such as the PRA that will protect these City Owned Open Spaces perpetually.

    I will continue the work of protecting these important areas of City that enhances the neighborhoods and the overall character of Cranston. Further work needs to be done in the area of protecting these viable areas of our City. That is why I further support City Bonds and for the opportunity to receive State Bonds for the creation of a Municipal Sports Complex at Mulligan’s Island. We speak daily of the lack of ball fields, soccer fields and overall opportunity’s for our children and those adults who still enjoy it, in having those opportunities to cultivate our craft or love of sports.

    I am a strong supporter of ensuring “Open Space� and the creation of “Green Areas� that will create a better future for the City of Cranston. I will not sale out our City for pocket change of less than 1% of the overall City’s budget when “Open Space� brings more to the table when speaking about what Cranston is all about: “Our Neighborhoods, Our Families, Our Way Of Life!�

  4. I am also opposed to any redevelopment of this land. Between Chapel View, the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal, and the row of pharmacies on Oaklawn Avenue, our neighborhoods have become too commercial. Mulligan’s Island is perfect as it is- a great recreational use of land. (I’m enjoying learning how to golf at the driving range and 9 Hole Course!)

    I’m willing to do whatever I can to help in your efforts and have already spoken with Senator Gallo and Councilman Barone. Feel free to email me at andreaiannazzi@msn.com.

  5. Mark has a good list of anti-environment developments, but he forgot to add the use of $750,000 in parks and recreation bonds to put Astroturf at Cranston Stadium. This project, according to the parks and recreation director, will last 12 years at most. Then we will have to spend another $750,000+ (and don’t forget interest) to replace it. I hope the city council will spend that money instead to increase/improve open space areas in the city, as was originally intended.

  6. Thank you to all that have posted to show your support for our group. It is also important to note that in addition to the zoning changes and changes to the City’s Comprehensive Plan that would be needed, the first proposal by Churchill & Banks called for eliminating a city-owned ball field and turning it into a 4-lane entrance with traffic light.

    The decision to sell a city-owned ball field to this or any developer is also a huge issue because it could set a precedent for other developers that are interested in bringing their businesses to Cranston. If we allow this to happen to this ball field and open space, it could happen anywhere in Cranston!

  7. Steve is right – removing natural turf and replacing it with a synthetic surface is a threat as well (that’s not even taking into consideration the millions of taxpayer dollars that will be wasted.)

    The Parks and Rec Director reads a brochure and confidently declares the surface will last 12 years. The bond is for 30 years, so it will need to be replaced at least once and who knows how much that will cost 12 years from now. That is if it even lasts 12 years.

    I did my own research (on infill systems, the type of synthetic turf that I understand is being proposed) and found this rather interesting study being done on synthetic surfaces at Penn State – http://cropsoil.psu.edu/mcnitt/infill8.cfm

    What is most telling is this summary on durability:

    “The long-term durability of these fields is unknown. The duration of the warranties offered by synthetic turf companies has been set by economic and competitive issues as opposed to knowledge of the long-term durability of the systems. Originally, the standard warranty of a crumb rubber infill synthetic turf system was five years. Competition increased the warranty to eight years and for several projects the systems were warranted for 10 years. Currently, an eight-year warranty is considered standard in the United States. This author has seen some outdoor high-use fields that may last well beyond the warranty period while others look worn after only one year of use. Since the pile fibers breakdown due to both foot traffic and photodegradation, indoor fields will typically outlast fields that are exposed to sunlight. The author has observed thinning pile fiber in high wear areas around the goal mouth of high school lacrosse fields after only two years of use. There is no standard method to evaluate wear or thinning of the pile fiber. A warranty providing a guarantee against ‘excessive wear’ is open to interpretation.”

    Let’s all focus on protecting our environment no matter what the threat – big-box development or synthetic turf – and let’s do it fast.

  8. After reading Councilwoman McFarland’s comments and all she has advocated for, can someone ask her why she was “advocating” a payraise again for the City Clerk? It’s a wonderful thing that she preserves open space but how about spending.

    Maybe she will run for mayor in ’08 and we will fineally be rid of her.

  9. The woven threads of what the intent for the City is based on the Comprehensive Plan mentioned several times. Cranston has a Superfund site which is shameful and we now will have to wonder what the leachate will do to the affected surrounding areas. Do we want Mulligan’s intended purpose to be changed to benefit who? I cannot believe that the cummulative housing taxes collected, affluent residents and shoppers to the fine shops of Garden City and Chappel View will continue to outweigh benefits if Mulligan’s and the Cement Plant come. If folks don’t want such things, we need to be present at the Council Meeting and Planning Board Meetings. We assume our elected official for our Ward is representing our wishes, but it resinates more if we go and are watching to see if we are truly being represented when they vote. We forget, we should be dictating to them. Clearly, if the Batching Plant (with a plume exceeding 1 mile of toxins) and the Big Box Mall come thwarting our quiter existence and family enjoyment, the demographics of the City will change. People will leave and stores will move. We need to think of the future and I believe Save Cranston’s Open Space and CCRZD can aid in that plan of sustainable visionary revenue. We need to be sure we are part of those negotiations and talks.

    Thank you Rachel for your ability to show why this area is in need of protection ~ my family is grateful to such active members of the community.

  10. …..as far as the comment about Councilwoman McFarland, she has been forthright in every dealing I have had with her. She hasn’t quivered in her belief’s and I find her to be a powerhouse that has good intuitiveness. Obviously some of her speeches lately put her in position to sound like she is running some time in the future….what’s wrong with that? Let’s face it, no matter how much the City cuts, we have to raise the tax. Daffey didn’t exactly leave us in the shape he believes he did. I’m not basing that on he said she said… do research

  11. The revised proposal from Churchill & Banks is scheduled to be presented at the Planning Commission Meeting on Tuesday, August 7 at 7pm. The meeting is currently scheduled for Cranston East. As Joan said, it is important that we attend this meeting and other City meetings to make our voices heard. Please visit our website for updates on our efforts and we will be posting information about the revised proposal when it is on file with City Hall.

  12. Joan of Arc, Jr.

    Will we be seeing your name on the ballot in ’08? You seem to have all the answers. You also seem to forget that when the Laffey administration left office, the city has over $20 million dollars and are able to make the payroll every week. Something that cannot be said of the previous administration.

    Just so you are aware, my constituents in Ward 6 are well represented and always call my home to advise me of thier opinion on different issues that affect them. I encourage them to do so. Although attending a council meeting may be the best way to tell you representative how you feel, but the way the meetings are conducted, sometimes seniors and children are required to wait until all hours of the night before they have the opportunity to speak. That’s why I encourage my constituents to call, they are well represented.

    If you have any concerns that you would like addressed, please feel free to call my home.

    Councilman Barone

  13. Hi everyone, I am co-organizer of SAVE CRANSTON’S OPEN SPACE. I live on the ninth hole of Mulligans Island with my husband Bob and our twelve year old son Jacob. When we first moved here the land now known as Mulligans Island was a very thick corn field. We couldn’t see a thing, prison “what prison”? The 55 acres of corn field blocked any signs of a prison.

    A year later, still new to the neighborhood word of the land being sold to someone who wanted to put in a gulf course. Gulf course?, will this be a bad thing? We weren’t sure. We knew that people were fighting, so we didn’t need to worry about it,things were being taken care of we don’t need to get involved is what we thought.

    Ten years later, this neighborhood has been an unbelievable experience, the friendships we have made with so many people. It’s like family. Did I mention the trees that run along Mulligans Island and the beautiful back drop that they offer our neighborhood. Never in a million years did I think that our ignorance of ten years ago would come back to haunt us.

    I am so embarrassed!! It took Church Hill & Banks to teach me that I could go to a planning commission meeting , or walk right into the planning office and ask questions. Hold a meeting in my yard with several elected officials, write a letter to the editor. These are things we should of done ten years ago. For sure it was going to affect us and how could I think that they didn’t need our help.

    If only I new these things ten years ago maybe we wouldn’t be facing the sale of Mulligans Island to a big developer, maybe we would have asked the city to have purchased the land off the State for the same low price of $500.000 and used the land designated as open space for people that should be most important to the city, the children!!!!

    This is OUR CITY!!!!! Let’s take it back!!!!!

    Please join us in our fight to take the cities open space back from the grip of the big developers and it’s little helpers, you know who you are.

    Thank you for listening and I hope you will join us.

    Lori Chartier

  14. As another resident of Oakhill Terrace and member of Savecranstonsopenspace I am so appreciative to have another avenue that enables us to get the word out to the citizens of Canstons regarding the proposed building at Mulligan’s Island. Thanks to all who support our cause. This issue affects all of Cranston’s residents. While it is true that the development directly encroaches many neighborhoods nearby, the impact of the land sale and possible loss of recreational space affects everyone in the city. If the developer were to be successful, who is to say that other areas in our city won’t be sold, re-zoned and built up? To all, call you city council representatives, your state representative, Mayor Napolitano as well as Peter Lapolla (head of the planning board). Attend concil and planning meetings, help us to preserve our open spaces and recreational areas. Let the city government know we won’t tolerate not only a big box development, but ANY devlopment on the current Mulligan site. Also, we are having a HUGE NEIGHBORHOOD YARD SALE to raise money to help us fight this proposal. Saturday June 30th 8am, 120 Hilltop Drive (Oakhill Terrace). Any donated items or baked goods will be much appreciated. Thanks for everone’s support.
    Lisa Dowd

  15. To Ms. Chartier:

    Although I support the preservation of open space in the city, and have supported the residents of Oak Hill and the surronding area against the developement of Church Hill & Banks request to build box stores. I will continue to do so.

    I just felt the need to comment on your concerns. I am very glad that you learned that the government is yours to question and protest. It is not only your right, it is your responsibilty to question your government.

    Saying that, you must also understand that the city is not responsible to go out and purchase land everytime someone wants to build something. If that were the case, the city would own everything. We are not in the real estate management business. If we were, the Ice Rink, the sewer system and Waste Management would not be providing the city services and taxes would be even higher. I think they are high enough.

    We have other, more adequate places in the city that a box store can go, not a residential area. I would be agreeable if the developer wanted to put it in western Cranston near Plainfield Pike.

    I hope this puts a little light on the subject.

    Councilman Barone

  16. Councilman Barone:

    Since this is the first time I’ve see you post on this blog, I’d like to ask you a few questions. I also hope you take some time to consider them and offer your replies.

    (I ask the other readers to bear with me.)

    First, why do you seem to think it necessary to insult people who post their thoughts here? I refer to your previous reply to Joan of Arc Jr. The anger didn’t work for anyone else in your party last November; why do you persist in it?

    Second, instead of discussing new commercial developments, what are you doing to push for use of existing space? For example, the former boutique shop next door to Efendi’s on Reservoir Avenue is up for lease. It’s not a big-box, obviously, but getting a new business in there would provide tax revenue and avoid a look of blight on the otherwise busy street. I would also remind you that very little development happened under Mr. Laffey, in my view, because of the chaos he created in the Economic Development office (after claiming that he would hire a ‘czar’). And what is your opinion of Council President Garabedian’s plan for “Atwood Village” on the site of the old police station?

    Finally, what ideas can you offer on the state budget apparently cutting $120,000 in school aid to Cranston? Where will that money come from?

  17. To Councilman Barone,

    I do want to thank you for your on going support. It means a lot to know that Cranston’s current administration is listing to all of the concerns we residents have about any proposed projects that will effect the well being of our families.

    Although, I do want to clear something up. I wasn’t implying that the city go out and buy land all over the place just because someone wants to develop it. I was merely saying that if we have a state and city COMPREHENSIVE PLAN that PROMOTES and PROTECTS OPEN SPACE then we should do just that! Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m told that when it comes to OPEN SPACE Cranston is in the negative.I know that the city isn’t in the real estate management business but when we are talking the COMPREHENSIVE PLAN PROTECTING OPEN SPACE in this city , how did we let 55 acres of OPEN SPACE become so VULNERABLE as it is today? I guess in my eyes if the city was at the time, following the COMPREHENSIVE PLAN TO PROTECT OPEN SPACE they would have found a way to either apply for a bond or what have you, to obtain the land and preserve it, as Mrs McFarland has recently mentioned.

    Again, I thank you for listening and can appreciate your candidness.

    Lori Chartier

  18. Thanks for everyone continuing the discussion on open space. We have some big decisions ahead. I’m not categorically opposed to Big Box stores — I do my share of shopping at them, too. But I am trying to figure out who would be the candidates. People have speculated about BJ’s and Home Depot, but they are both within 10 minutes — just off the 295 in Johnston. Then go 1 more exit to North Smithfield and you’ve got Target, Kohl’s, and Home Depot again. So what’s it going to be? I’d be interested to hear people’s suggestions.

    If you look at a map of this area of the central part of Cranston (Eden Park, Garden City, Forest Hills, Oak Hill, Auburn, etc) it seems that the Mulligan’s Island area is the only large piece of open space, and already it has been compromised in that we are not getting the benefit of a natural or fully treed area. But it does not surprise me that the wheels are in motion to turn it into commercial development.

    Beyond retailers, I hope there is the possibility of more white collar employers moving to Cranston.

  19. I too am a member of SCOS (Save Cranston’s Open Space) and I would like to thank you for availing this forum Kiersten. Apparently the logistic and marketing gurus in
    Atlanta (Home Depot), Minneapolis(Target), and Natick,Ma
    (B.J.s) are looking at a different map of the area than we are. Nevermind the Target/Depot/Kohl’s in Smithfield, all three are in Warwick as well!!! The population density stats they are looking at must be clouding their projections.
    Richard Brown

  20. In hopes of trying to cool down the anxiety a bit, I’d just like to remind readers that at one point, Home Depot and Pep Boys were both planned for the Reservoir/Sockanossett Cross Road area. Both were killed after strong and vocal opposition — the Pep Boys plan eventually became Panera/Pier One.

    I’d also note that the leader against the Pep Boys plan was Aram Garabedian — who is now Council President. If anything, responsible development and open space preservation have a better chance now that he’s on the council.

  21. Jesse,
    It is true that Council President Garabedian led the oppostition to the Pep Boys/Home Depot plan and hopefully he’ll come forward and voice his disapproval to any plan here as well. I believe he is awaiting to hear from the Ethics Commission because he could possibly benefit if this development is not built as owner of the Warwick Mall.

    The major difference between the present Panera/Pier One plaza and this proposal is that the land there was already zoned commercial and the Mulligan’s/ball field land is not. I would hope that since Council President Garabedian and the CCRZ&D were so successful then, with the land properly zoned, that we will be able to make our voices heard and encourage the City not to approve the zoning changes, changes to the Comprehensive Plan and the sale of a city-owned ball field to this or any developer.

    Also, it is interesting to note that the developer of the Panera plaza was Churchill & Banks, the same developers that have proposed the Centre at Garden Hills.

  22. Jesse,
    I really, really hope you are right in your assumption about Aram Garabedian, but… The difference here is that Mr. Garabedian opposed the Pep Boys/Home Depot
    because it was in his own backyard. While the proposed “Centre(supposedly hip spelling)at Garden Hills site is less than a mile from the Panera/Pier One development he has NOT come out against the proposal.
    Churchill and Banks, the developers hoping to build on the Mulligan’s property built the Panera/Pier One pseudo strip mall with little to no opposition from Mr. Garabedian. In an early post you mentioned the “Atwood Village” proposal at the site of the former police station, what details have you heard about this? And will this proposed development lay waste to the ballfield
    that abuts the police station?

  23. Rachel: You are correct on the Ethics Commission situation; Mr. Garabedian is showing his typical excess of caution and ensuring that he has an independent opinion before proceeding.

    Richard: To my knowledge, the two main issues with the Atwood Village are a.) drainage, and b.) the ball field. There has been a drainage plan on the books since the 1970s, I believe, that would be used if the project were to go forward. As for the field, the issue seems to be one of replacing the existing field with another one elsewhere in the city. As I understand it, Mr. Garabedian has a site in mind that the teams can use, satisfying that concern. Still, all of this is in a very early stage, and we may not see anything concrete for some time.

  24. The proposed opportunity to create “Atwood Village” at the former Police Station is dead, as I previously said in the Providence Journal some time ago. The area floods annually and sometimes several times during the spring and summer season. It was not the relocation of the ball field that lead to the area not being able to be used for development, but the use of federal funds to support and sustain the creation of the recreation facility years ago. I support for those residents and that area the continuation of open space. We will be moving forward at the July Ordinance Committee to start the process to sale the former police station and the allow land for retail, office space or some other functional use along Atwood Avenue. It should also complement the area as we have residential properties and a neighborhood elementary school.

    As for the use of the ball field located near Mulligan’s Island I am against the sale of the land for any use except recreation. We are unable to find appropriate land for all our recreational needs, so I would never vote to remove a portion of land that enhances our Community.

  25. Councilwoman McFarland:

    I am a resident of Ward 3, and alarmed — as I was when I first read your quote in the ProJo — that you would declare any project dead. Also confusing to me is that you are apparently in support of commercial/retail development, yet you rule out the “village” concept.

    Also, since it was President Garabedian who first offered the idea, I would think he’d show the same commitment to responsible development (taking into account the school and nearby neighborhood) as he has with Garden City.

    I was unaware of the federal funds issue, however, and thank you for clarifying the situation.

  26. All our neighborhoods need to unite to fight these issues. We in Forest Hills have been battling Domestic Bank for 25 years with little support from members of the city council. They will only do what is right if they believe we citizens could impact election results. I’m afraid, some members have forgotten why they were elected and by whom. The neighborhood around Jimmy D’s is having issues. The neighborhood around the old Police station may be looking at a mall if our City Council President and his buddy Councilman Lanni have there way and fill in the wetlands. We have the plight with our fellow neighbors and the concrete batching plant as well as another neighborhood on the east side battling with a landscaping company that is using it’s property as a trucking depot.

    This city is going to hell in a hand basket, and our some of our elected only provide the rhetoric, “we need business taxes to reduce the burden on our residents”. What they don’t get is that their actions are adversely affecting our real estate values which will reduce our tax burden. Got to love Cranston political logic. As far as Barone and McFarland. They have my vote!

  27. Our City Council President will look out for you? He’s a developer and property manager. Wasn’t the area of the proposed Pep Boys/Home Depot in the general location of our Council President’s neighbohood? I’m relatively new to the area, but I believe it was. He doesn’t live in the Forest Hills neighborhood, and hasn’t done a thing for us with Domestic bank taking over our neighborhood. Don’t count your chickens before they hatch……

  28. Jesse, by any chance are you on President Garabedian’s payroll? If not, are you using this as a way to get on the payroll?

  29. To Lori Chartier I am glad to hear that you feel Councilman Jeff barone helped represent for the Cnraston Open Space issue. My interaction with Mr. Barone for the past 3 years has been non-existent. Not by my account but by his. I live in the Pontiac/Garden City section of Cranston and ahve dealt with the Water treatment plant and Northeastern Tree Serive for 4 years now.

    Last Summer my wife and I went to a city meeting at the Water Treatment plant to discuss and complain about the odor and noise. Cranston’s water treatment plant is ran by Veola water and not our city. Veola pays the City of Cranston to run it, yes that’s right they pay the city, why you ask? because they can bring in outside vendors to dump their “#@$%” in our plant. Money, money, money. Now Mr. Barone waas suppose to attend that meeting as well as our representatives from the city, you know how many showed up to help us out? NONE! He has voice no opinions or expressed any help to us.

    Now the Northeastern tree Service (who has the city of Cranston’s contract) (who’s owner has 2 son’s on the city zoning board) Has been up and running from 7 AM to 6 PM 7 days a week in a residential neighborhood. How can he do that you ask? he went above the city and went to that state to change his land to agricultural, by doing so he is breaking at least 12 zoning and other codes, which were documented by the DEM. This tree service is making mulch all day long, the machine and piles of mulch are less then 80 yards from our homes. We have mulch dust in our homes, in our pools and at least 8 neighborhood children have been coughing up dust from it. When we went and asked the city about it Mr. Barone did not reply. We got a better response from a secretary at City Hall.

    Last thing I want to vent about is the cell tower this same tree service erected 2 years ago. This eyesore was suupose to be a 40-50 foot phone tower for his workers, he came around the neighborhood and talk to us about it and aske d our permission to put it up for his workers, which we agred to. But we did not agree to a 300 foot cell tower that can be seen for 5 miles in Cranston! It has never been used or operated and from what the city and DEm has told us is that by law after 1 year on nonservice it is suppose to be taking down, but again it hasn’t. Please if anyone can help me out with this or get Mr. Barone to help us please contact me.

  30. To gdma,

    It’s great to have this kind of forum to be able to speak your mind and seek help on many issues. Like I’ve said before, I am new to this. Not everyone gets involved unless they have a problem. It’s ignorance! Up until very recently I was very ignorant to what was going on in the city that I live in. I think there are more people like that than not. I don’t think it’s that people don’t care. People are busy and they read the paper and they put it down, but when citizens reach out to other citizens people tend to listen and want to help.

    Unfortunately, reaching out takes time, money and energy. Starting SAVE CRANSTON’S OPEN SPACE took all of that and more. It started with writing to everyone on the city hall website including Councilman Barone. Getting the word out of any planning and zoning meetings on those issue’s is crucial.

    You have very valid questions that need to be answered by our city elected officials. It sounds like you really need to band the neighborhood together and get the word out to other Cranston residents to what the issues are and how they impact the whole city. If Northeastern Tree Service are truly breaking any laws then that is an issue that I think people are going to want to know about, since a large part of the city uses there services.

    I do know that Councilman Barone, does read this blog so this is a great place for you to start voicing all of your concerns.

    Thank you. I hope that I have been of some help to you, since it is becoming more and more clear to me that people need to band together on a number of disturbing issues in the city of Cranston.

    Lori Chartier

  31. klaus:

    I take exception to your flippant question, as it seems to suggest that I can not think for myself, and that there’s some problem with agreeing with Mr. Garabedian.

    But, to answer the question directly (which Councilors Barone and McFarland have not — and which you should be more upset about), no, I am not on Mr. Garabedian’s “payroll.” I am not an employee of Warwick Mall, Bliss Properties, or the City of Cranston.

    Mr. Cloonen:

    Don’t mistake a lack of progress with a lack of will to address the issue. To my knowledge, Mr. Garabedian has been pushing Domestic to expand its parking and reconfigure its parking lot to get cars off the streets. The delay has come from the city’s subcommittees that review projects such as this one. Also, finding scapegoats does nothing constructive for your cause. I may sound naive to you about this, but I believe in finding common agreement and working from there. Domestic is working to get cars off the streets; you want the cars off the streets. It’s just going to take time. As for the example I mentioned, the Pep Boys deal was on the table almost nine months when it finally got turned down. My advice is to take the long view.

  32. Jesse, I’ll take the long view when Garbedian get’s his buddy, the bank’s owner, to take his hand out of my pocket and that my neighbors. It’s been in there for 25 years. How long of a view do you suppose we take? Domestic Bank has not been forth right in stating how many employees they have, and I’m afraid you sound as if you have bought Garabedian and Baker’s drivel. The lot will hold 50 cars, They have over 200 employees. Perhaps you should invite those that won’t fit in the lot to park in your neighborhood. As far as scapegoats, come talk to the residents of Forst Hills and ask who are the scapegoats. Caveat Emptor

  33. I strongly agree with keeping “OPEN SPACE” in the city of Cranston. I know tax revenue is important, but to take Mulligan’s Island away and put yet another mall right down the street from Chapel Hill and Garden City is absurd.
    Mulligan’s Island is a credit to the community of Cranston. Let’s show our children there are other things to do in Cranston besides shop and eat.
    Gail Yanku
    Hamilton Road

  34. I just moved to Garden Hills and can’t believe that development at Mulligans is even a consideration. EVERY politician in Cranston should be coming out strongly against this unnecessary and what would be destructive development. Failure to do so shows a lack of leadership as well as a lack of common sense. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but if the city council president is backing this project, he should be ashamed. Why didn’t he allow it to be built in his neighborhood?? I think we all know the answer to that question.

    The bottom line is that no amount of tax revenue is enough to ruin my neighborhood and quality of life of my family. The pols who support this development, need to be reminded who they work for. Any development of the Mulligan’s area would have nothing but negative impact on mulitple neighborhoods. Someone else said it best in an earlier post when they said that all the city has to do is not change the current zoning and comprehensive plan, should be pretty simple. Power in numbers, we all need to stick together on this thing and make our voices heard, very loudly.

  35. Jim, Just wondering where you heard that the council president was backing the plan for turning Mulligan’s Island into a commercial development. I have not seen that reported anywhere.

  36. Thomas, In my reading of the article, quoted below, it suggests that Garabedian was rumored as a partner in the proposed apt. complex at the corner of Natick and Phenix Aves, not the Mulligan’s Island proposal. From the article:

    The folks at Churchill & Banks have apparently conceded that their Mulligan’s Island proposal has less than a snowball’s chance in Hades of being approved as-is and have withdrawn it temporarily for reworking. Here’s a suggestion: find somewhere else to put it. The neighbors are never going to be happy with the design, regardless of how many trees are planted, and the city will have a tough time justifying the elimination of half a hundred acres of what’s technically still classified as open space.

    The developers of a proposed apartment complex at the intersection of Natick and Phenix avenues have also been sent back to the drawing board. Apparently, the design for the long-awaited traffic light there doesn’t account for hordes of cars making left-hand turns from across the street and changes are going to be entirely the city’s responsibility to fund. The developers shouldn’t expect the city to pony up (even if Council President Aram Garabedian is a financial partner in the project as rumored), especially since the project plans don’t even toss out the bone of affordable housing units – something the city is desperately looking to add before the state starts mandating them.

  37. GDMA, To answer your concerns, I don’t know who you are but I have never received a call, email or any attempt from you to address these concerns.

    Just to set the record straight, the owner of NE tree does not have 2 son’s on the zoning board. I know this for a fact because I am in constant contact with Mr. Sepe because of concerns the neighbors have with the issues with NE Tree and the mulching that goes on there. I have never heard of children coughing up mulch, I think I would remember that.

    If you have any concerns or questions, please feel free to call my home 401-463-3305 anytime and I wil be glad to discuss any matter with you.

    As far as Vieolia Water, you may want to check your facts before you make statements of who pays who, and why.

  38. To Gail Yanku and Jim (Garden Hills),
    Jim, I believe we have communicated via e-mail and I/We at Save Cranston’s Open Space welcome you into the fray, into the organization, and to the City of Cranston.
    Gail, thanks for your concern and support… Feel free to visit our website savecranstonopenspace.com–we are looking for help, support, volunteers, like thinkers, bakers,and concerned citizens. Richard Brown

  39. Mr. Barone

    Wellspring Drive, Newwod Drive, Glen View, Park Forrest etc….ring a bell. I am not going to dance with you, I have found you to be irratic and unethical. This is not a political forum for you, but let me just say you pick and choose what you feel like representing.

    As a member of the Cranston Environmental Waste Water Hazard Committee I called you and complained also about the stench and possible problem with the plant. You didn’t respond and I got a DEM fellow that I talk to when I have issues who actually found the problem and fined the plant. Something the City rarely does when entities such as Domestic Bank break their commitment to meet a deadline – they should be fined the City is losing on revenue. – END

    Above there was talk about the 1992 Comprehensive Plan, Did You hear that…1992…this is shameful to not have been passed. The open space in this City is top heavy on the Western Cranston side. Recently a friend for the sake of argument suggested Target would move in and said they would pull out if the neighbors vehemently objected because they want to be good neighbors (there’s some ethics). The friend said look you bought a house in the thick of the City you shouldn’t expect they would move to all the Open Space on the West. YES, that’s exactly what I propose – since there is an inbalance of open space, we need to maintain status quo.

    Remember when families played with their kids …. mini putt….etc. versus cheetos and Game Boy/Girl “whatever those thing are”….we need to have such activities for families. Atwood Avenue Aram is for that development and I have supported Paula McFarland’s assertion this is bad planning. I served with Paula on the Flood and Drain Study Commission and I was in a battle to fight for our city drains to be cleaned (perhaps you were in Miami Mr. Barone, because you weren’t there to help me and my neighbors…although I’m sure you’ll have an answer for that, which will differ from the one you gave me before of why you couldn’t help…I digress). Again, a softball field, albeit wet and flooded a lot, is a family activity. Good lord, do we really need another filled in wetland – this should be a detention pond or remain. Lori and Rachel said there is water issues on their street and this is an excerpt from a resident neighbor….

    “The fresh water stream originates in a swampy section of land, between Mulligans Golf Course (land leased from the state), and the John J. Moran Medium Security facility. It flows along Wilma Schesler Lane, then goes under East Avenue, through a storm drain pipe. This storm drain pipe empties into the fresh water stream again behind Katan’s Market, which then flows down towards Mayfield Avenue. This is where it ends, at a storm drain on Mayfield Avenue, which cannot handle the volume of water generated during a rain storm. The stream overflows it’s banks, with great force, and continues on into our neighborhood. Some of the water flows behind the homes on Newwood Avenue then into their basements, the rest flows down Stacy Drive onto Samuel Court and ends up in the homes on Wellspring Drive. One home on Wellspring lost a section of their driveway and their foundation has cracked, another home lost a fence to the force of this flowing water. Homes along Newwood Drive have lost liners to in ground pools, fences, and actual sections of yards have been washed away. All of us now endure flooded basements every time a heavy rain storm passes by. The force of water flowing, is so strong, that it has also impacted the homes on the next street down from us, on Hollow Tree Drive.

    Along with the excessive storm water that is flowing into this fresh water stream, complaints have been made about the rodents (rats) and debris that are sighted coming through this same storm drain from the Howard Complex into our neighborhood. What else could be flowing into this fresh water stream and into our neighborhood, that we don’t even know about, from all the construction?

    Many of us have lived here for over 26 years, others longer than that. We have never had to deal with flooded basements and washed out yards like we’ve been dealing with for the last year and a half. Before starting all the construction at the Howard Complex, did the state submit or even conduct, a Storm Water Management Plan? The state of Rhode Island needs to have a civic engineer look into this situation, find a solution and implement measures to eliminate the flooding caused by the storm water run off from the state facility. We have been in contact with Cranston City Officials, but they state that the excessive water is generated at the state facility, and they are doing what they can. How many floods do we have to endure and how long do we have to wait before the state takes action to correct the problem, that they have created with all the new construction at the state facility.”

    Does this sound like Mulligan’s would be a good thing. Was Cullion thinking they would supply the concrete to this deal? Do note, asphalt will not soak up water the way dirt does.

    I know my officials numbers by heart, just as I am aware of who has responded. Any further clarification from those parties need not appeal to me – it would only be seen as a political move. Just do the right thing and put your energy to Saving Open Space – not contemplating what the new plans will be – the only plan I want to see is plans to rectify the problems that currently exist.

  40. Thanks, Jim. Garabedian usually does come out with a position on things, but as “Jesse” stated above, apparently he is awaiting an ethics ruling on whether he should recuse himself, because of business relationships with Churchill & Banks, I think. Perhaps Jesse could clarify this a bit further or give us a link to the article, if there is one, where it was discussed.

  41. I believe Garabedian asked for an ethics ruling because he could benefit from the proposal not being approved as the owner of the Warwick Mall, which is in close proximity to the Mulligan’s complex. It will be interesting to see what the ruling is and what his public position will be on the development regardless of the ruling.

    If he is recused, there will be 8 City Council members that can vote on the proposal. I have never pretended to be an expert in politics, so I’m not sure how that would affect a vote if a majority vote is needed. Whether a majority or 2/3 vote is needed hinges on the decision of the Planning Commission at the August 7 meeting.

  42. Kiersten:

    To my knowledge there hasn’t been an article to date. I’m basing my statements on speaking with Mr. Garabedian. For what it’s worth, I give him credit for asking the Ethics Commission’s opinion before voting on any proposal.


    It may sound like a technical point, but Mr. Garabedian is president of the company (Bliss Properties) that is co-managing partner of the mall, not an owner.

  43. Jesse,
    I’m glad that you’ve been able to speak to Mr. Garabedian, I haven’t been as fortunate. I was not aware that Bliss Properties is not the owner of the mall, thank you for letting us know that. Hopefully the Ethic Commission gives their opinion soon so that the City is aware of their ruling and how it effects this proposal.

  44. Rachel, Jesse is correct, check out

    link to labelscar.com

    “In a strange twist, the Warwick Mall has remained privately owned throughout its entire history. Developed by Bliss Properties, Lloyd Bliss sold the mall to his son-in-law, Cranston City Councilman Aram Garabedian, the mall’s owner today. Today, the May/Federated merger has created the mall’s largest vacancy ever, with the 300,000 square foot former Macy’s/Jordan Marsh sitting dark. Garabedian has purchased the site from Federated and said he is exploring demolishing the structure (which, given its size, seems almost inevitable) and replacing it with a lifestyle component to anchor the southern end of the mall. While I agree that what the mall needs most is more in-line space (70 stores is tiny for such a dominant, super-regional mall), I’m not so jazzed about the lifestyle concept in general because I fear it will look tacked on. I’d rather see the mall receive a second level addition with a collection of alternative anchors at its southern end, but one challenge facing the Warwick Mall is that the success of its surrounding shopping district means that there are very few chains not already present. ”

    I have also spoken to Aram and he said this is one of the reasons he is AGAINST the development of Mulligans.

  45. Suzanne,
    I’m a little confused. From the way I read it, Councilman Garabedian IS the owner of the mall. Also, I’m not sure what a lifestyle component is. Can you fill me in on that?

  46. It is wonderful that Councilman Garabedian has told you that he is against the development and hopefully he makes a public statement to the same effect.

  47. To Mr. barone,

    My facts are correct. I went to a quarterly meeting at the Water Treatment plant in July -August of 2005, to cpmplain to the committee. We waited over 30 minutes for you to show up to be in the meeting but you did not show. Veola water reps. were there and did tell me that they run the sysytem for the City of Cranston and if you happened to sit in your car on the side of Don’s diner on Pontiac Ave on a normal weekday you will see numerous waste trucks coming in from outside vendors to dumop in our plant. They told me they do this nad htis for they make there money and why the city of cranston let’s them do it? because Veola pays the City of Cranston. The only reason why I sat this is because we asked in the meeting about them covering the tanks and they told me that the city has to pay for that. We got no where fast on that.

    As far as NE tree service, his two children ARE ON THE ZONING BOARD. If you read about the concrete plant in this same website they talk about they took themselves off of Concrete issue because of “conflict of interest.” Due to the tree service being next door to it. I have been to a zoning board meeting at EAST and have seen them. So don’t tell me to get my facts straight when I have them right! I have done my research.

    I am not here to argue about your issues and your backing of certain things, are children in our neighborhood were coughing up dust this past month due to the tree services mulching. You didn’t hear about it because we called other council people and the city about it. We actually got more information about things from the receptionist at city hall then anyone else.

    You want to help us? let everyone in the pontiac area know when the next meeting is at the treatment plant so we can all go and show our support on how to fix things.

  48. GDMA………..check your facts………..Mr. Ponder,who recused himself from the vote,WORKS for NE Tree is not the son of Mr. Sepe

  49. Adam Sepe is an alternative on the Zoning Board. Look that up. This conversation is done, it doesn’t matter nothing will come of it anyway. But anyway I went onto Porjo.com and paid $2.95 to get this article to prove to you that I am right, not to mention that I have seen him on the board in person…here is the original article please read and then we will let it go because I was right…

    Copyright Providence Journal/Evening Bulletin Jun 26, 2007
    The City Council adds a member to the zoning board to help ensure a quorum to hear a challenge of Cullion Concrete’s building permit. One mayoral appointment is being awaited.

    * * *

    CRANSTON – After an unusual lull in one of the city’s most contentious political and legal fights, the controversy over a half- built concrete-batching plant on Marine Drive flared up again yesterday with an opposition rally and a new appointment to a city panel that could kill the project.

    Neighbors began fighting Cullion Concrete Corp.’s plans for the plant more than a year ago, raising concerns about traffic, dust and noise. And the company’s agreement to halt construction last June, amid the growing controversy, did little to quiet the debate.

    But with both sides awaiting movement on a key lawsuit before the state Supreme Court, the Cullion controversy abated in recent months.

    That changed yesterday when Cranston Citizens for Responsible Zoning and Development, a neighborhood opposition group, staged a made-for-television rally outside City Hall, complete with red-and- white “Stop the Concrete Plant” signs, a group of singers called the “Raging Grannies of Rhode Island” and a line of petition-toting children.

    Opponents have found support on the City Council and in the mayor’s office, but have become frustrated with repeated legal delays. “This rally is a reminder to the mayor, the city administration and the City Council that we have been waiting one year to have this problem solved,” said Frank Mattiucci, president of the group, wielding a bullhorn before a crowd of about 200.

    The rally came about four hours before the City Council named Steven Minicucci – a lawyer recommended by council President Aram G. Garabedian, a staunch opponent of the Cullion project – to serve as an alternate on the Zoning Board of Review.

    The vote, taken with little fanfare, moved the zoning board one step closer to hearing an appeal of the building permit issued for the Cullion project in March 2006. That appeal has been delayed for months because of a series of conflicts of interest on the panel.

    Adam C. Sepe, an alternate member of the board, told The Providence Journal last fall that he would recuse himself because he works for North-Eastern Tree Recycling, a company that operates on land abutting the nine-acre Cullion site.

    The state Ethics Commission advised Curtis R. Ponder, a zoning board member also employed by North-Eastern, not to participate. And the commission declined to endorse the involvement of a third zoning board member, Frank Corrao III, a top official at the state Department of Transportation who tests concrete that Cullion supplies to the department.

    Without Sepe, Ponder and Corrao, the board – comprising five members and two alternates – did not have the five-member quorum it needed to hear the case.

    After some legal wrangling, a Superior Court judge ordered the City Council, in February, to request permission from the state legislature for an enlargement of the board. With the state and local0 approvals in place, the City Council – which is on record opposing the Cullion plant – voted to add Minicucci to the board last night.

    Mayor Michael T. Napolitano, also opposed to the project, is entitled to appoint an alternate of his own. He said yesterday that he is weighing several candidates for the post.

    Lawyers on both sides debated the significance of the council’s appointment and the mayor’s imminent addition. Richard E. Crowell, Jr., a lawyer for the neighborhood opposition group, said he expects the newly constituted zoning board to find the building permit is invalid.

    But John O. Mancini, a lawyer for Cullion, said the zoning board does not have the right to weigh the appeal while the matter is before the Supreme Court. “If they try to convene,” he warned, “we’ll seek to preserve and protect Cullion’s rights

  50. Cranston neighborhoods under attack Commercial encroachment to blame

    Neighborhoods must unite to take back city

    It seems every time we read the paper, neighborhoods in our city are under attack by business. The proposed cement plant, the proposal for Mulligans Island, the issues with restaurants on Cranston Street, the homes surrounding Northeast Tree Service and the decades old battle with Domestic Bank in Forest Hills.

    Unfortunately, many of those we put in office have turned a deaf ear to our plight. The characters of our neighborhoods are being destroyed. Our quality of life is slowly being ruined. And our residential property values are being crushed by poor planning and lack of action on the part of our elected officials. Not all, but many of them. Our own City Council President even suggested at a meeting that we drain the wetlands in back of the old police station and build a strip mall. Dozens of neighbors attended that meeting to speak their concerns. They were dismissed and turned away. A shame considering we have a legal right to speak at public hearings regarding any agenda item.

    Our officials step up on the soap box and state that we need to increase the tax base. That’s true, but we need to consider how commercial encroachment affects the value of the homes within all these neighborhood’s. It’s not rocket science. Will the cost of infrastructure and taxes paid by some commercial entities offset the reduction in taxes as a result of declining residential properties values?

    Sometimes elected officials are only motivated to take appropriate action when they see masses behind a cause. Why? Because they fear those masses can affect election results. Their election results. The problems we read and hear about affect every homeowner in this city. Maybe there’s no problem in your neighborhood now. But wait long enough and there will be.

    The neighbors of Forest Hills have been battling Domestic Bank for decades. The bank took over the neighborhood years ago. It is nearly impossible for us to utilize our streets. To end our plight, our city councilman has presented a resident only parking ordinance to the city officials and it’s committees. The original hearing has been continued twice. It will finally be heard at a special council meeting on Thursday evening, July 26, 2007 in council chambers. A time hasn’t been established yet, but we assume it will be heard sometime between 5:00 and 7:00 in the evening. This ordinance will set a precedent in our city. It will be a tool which will assist and empower us, the citizens of Cranston. It will enable us to take back our neighborhoods, force our officials to plan better, and attract companies that will work with the homeowners of Cranston and be good corporate neighbors. It will help solve commercial encroachment issues and it’s impact on our homes throughout our city.

    Please attend this important hearing and support our ordinance. It’s time we force our officials to look out for our best interests and those of our families. Not the interests of spiteful businesses that are motivated purely by profit. It’s time we unite and speak as one voice.

  51. Tom,
    I strongly agree with you that the neighborhoods and residents of Cranston need to unite and support one another. The issues Tom listed; Domestic Bank, the concrete plant and Mulligan’s Island are all important issues that affect all Cranston residents even if they do not live in the surrounding neighborhoods.

  52. Thanks Rachel and Jim. A good start would be if everyone showed up on July 26 at 6:00 for the special ordinance committee meeting and speak in support of the “resident only” parking ordinance. Calls to the members of the ordinance committee would be helpful as well. McFarland, Santa Maria and Barone have supported us for years regarding our plight. Garabedian has supported his self admitted good friend, Nat baker, owner of the Domestic Bank. Both Lanni and Bucci vote the same as Garabedian. Interesting that Lanni hasn’t supported us. His old ward is having significant issues with parking. Ths ordinance would help them out.In any event, the members are:

    City Council
    Council City-Wide
    Aram Garabedian (Council President)
    (401) 641-5855

    Council Ward 3
    Paula McFarland
    (401) 944-5802

    Council Ward 4
    Maria Bucci
    (401) 944-2443

    Council Ward 5
    Richard Santamaria, Jr.
    (401) 946-6709

    Council Ward 6
    Jeffrey Barone
    (401) 463-3305

  53. Tom,
    I could not agree with you more. We as citizens need to unite and send a clear message to Park Avenue that what is happening in our city is not acceptable. I’m with Save Cranston’s Open Space along with Rachel, Lori, Jim and a few hundred others, we have offered our support to the Stop the Concrete Plant group, and would be interested in helping your group as well. I’ve read your posts and it appears that you have been fighting this battle for quite some time. Have you and your neighbors formed an organization? Have you tried a “Parking Blockade”? Organize as many people as you can, set a date, and park as many cars along the street as possible.
    If you get enough cars lined up, the Domestic Bank employees will have to walk a lot further, and will more than likely voice their concerns once they arrive at work. Sprinklers spraying on to the street, by “accident” of course, would be an added touch. I can donate a vehicle or two for the cause and I’m sure others can/will as well. I understand that the employees will be bearing the brunt of this action, but…

  54. Richard,

    We have not formed an association as yet. Will form an LLC prior to year-end. We’re actually considering parking our cars in front of the City Council President’s house. He publicly stated he’s a personal friend of the bank’s owner and has voted against the residents of our neighborhood at every opportunity.

    The issue is, we’re dealing with a spiteful company and have been for more than 25 years. It is a family owned entity that is only interested in lining its family’s pockets with gold. Neighbors have died off and moved away thru the years.

    We have developed a strategic plan that includes resident only parking. The reason is the bank has never once told the committees they have been in front of how employees work in their corporate headquarters, which is located in our neighborhood.

    We found some of their marketing material that states they have over 200 employees and plan to hire another 30 – 40 in the coming years.

    To the bank’s credit, they recently started construction of a parking lot that was originally three homes that they tore down. They tore the first two homes down years ago and left it as a dirt hole. Then they tore down the third home two years ago. The three lots were left as gravel (and violation of numerous codes) because the city placed a cease and desist order. Reason being, the bank refused to move a curb cut about 8 feet off of Reservoir Ave. The bank sent a letter to all of us blaming the bank. We wrote back stating that they were the reason they can’t use the lot. Because they refused to move their ATM and teller lane 8 feet up from it’s then current location. A code violation.

    The owner, Nathaniel Baker, was then interviewed by the ProJo. He was quoted stating that we, the resident’s of Forest Hills would “scream loud and long to get the city to back off. Otherwise we would be looking at a gravel lot for a long time”. He went on to say that maybe he’d turn the lots “into a putting green for his employees”. Frankly, we liked that idea.

    By the way, the lots were originally purchased not for a parking lot but for teller drive ups. In any event, we haven’t backed off and did look at the dirt hole for more than 2 years as the owner promised we would. Now it is almost complete and looks better than the dirt hole. Albeit, the area know looks more commercial than residential and is adversely affecting our property values.

    What the bank did is bring their property into compliance with code. No more, no less. The issue at hand is, the lot will only hold 54 cars. We figure there are at least 136 employees working at the headquarters. Where the rest going to park? Oh yeah, don’t forget they bought property over on Liberia Street. The wanted a variance there for off street parking requirements. The city said no and the bank sued the city.

    If you read the commentary at Superior Court you’ll see that the bank stated there would only be 50 employees. That the off street parking wouldn’t be an issue. When the bank was pushed to come clean about how many employees would be at the Liberia Street location, they stated it would actually be around 150. Think about it. The bank and Garabedian would have us believe that the soon to be completed lot in Forest Hills will solve our problem. And the bank still refuses to state how many employees work in our neighborhood. Wonder why!

    We had a two-hour parking ordinance submitted to committee last year. We thought it would be fair if we could share the neighborhood with the bank. We and the bank could move our cars every two hours. That precedent exists in the city. It was passed by the ordinance committee last year, but tabled and sent to oblivion by Garabedian and his minions at January’s city council meeting.

    The bottom line, Councilman Navarro, a man of honor, has put forth a new ordinance on our behalf. “Resident only parking”. Ordinance Committee members Santa Maria, Barone and McFarland support it. Committee members Garabedian (Nat Bakers self admitted good friend), Bucci and Lanni have consistently voted against us. It has been continued twice. Now there is a special ordinance meeting scheduled for July 26 at 6:00. Supporting members didn’t think it was fair that we are kept waiting. As has been the case for years and years. We submitted a letter from Councilman McFarland to the bank back in 1999 demanding the do something about the parking issue. Nothing was done and here we are.

    We’re hopeful that Bucci, Lanni or even Garabedian may have a change of heart and see that the resident only parking is the only fair and reasonable solution. That the bank has outgrown it’s location and that it’s employees parking is their issue and can’t be thrown at us any longer.

    In fact, when Lanni was quoted in the Herald stating that had the “Resident Only Parking” ordinance been on the docket (rather than the two hour ordinance) he would have voted in favor of it. Maybe he’ll support us now. It would help Lanni’s old ward with it’s parking issues which are similar to those in our neighborhood and through out the city. Similar problems exist within in Councilman Livingstone’s area as well.

    In any event, we believe this will be our last hoorah. That there will be no further courses of action we can if the ordinance isn’t passed by this committee next Thursday, and then by the full city council next month. We believe that if not approved, our only remaining alternative to solve our problem will be thru the judiciary. Something we are prepared to do.

    But, we will be heard at election time. That is for sure.

  55. Tom,
    I think all of the residents involved in these issues throughout the city will be very active come election time based on what happens over the next few months. I believe that the deadline to declare your intentions of running for office is mid-June 2008, so we’ll know by then who is seeking re-election.

  56. i’ve posted several times on the other open space thread and i haven’t seen them. i’m testing to see if the problem is here at my end

  57. Hi everyone:
    I’ve also posted on the open space thread. I saw them on there for a short while. I no longer see them. My most recent one was saturday July 21. I want to thank you for the opportunities presented to everyone on expressing their civic concerns.

  58. Catskill Mountainkeeper launches with a mission: Build active network of citizens speaking out for the Catskills way of life

    Mountainkeeper Supporters Hold Up Jig-Saw Puzzle Map of the Six Counties that Make Up The Catskills
    2007-08-30 00:15:15 – Group seeks to unite residents from all parts of the Catskills to protect open space and promote smart growth in the region’s villages, mountains and valleys

    Monticello (June 5, 2007) – Catskill Mountainkeeper, a grassroots group intended to unite the entire region’s residents in the battle to preserve the quality of life here, announced it is open for business at a news conference in front of the Sullivan County Government Center.

    ‘Residents of the Catskills are as diverse as in any place on earth, but
    one thing everyone can unite on is that this is a special region that needs its people speaking up so that its tremendous cultural and natural resources stay intact,- said Joe Martens, the group’s chairman. ‘Catskill Mountainkeeper will build an active network of citizens to make that happen.-

    Martens also is the president of the Open Space Institute, one of several groups sponsoring Catskill Mountainkeeper. The group’s key priority is to push for a comprehensive, regional vision that takes into account new thinking about smart growth and wise use of the area’s natural resources, Martens said. Working with other established groups, Catskill Mountainkeeper then will organize citizens across the region’s counties to contribute their ideas for the region’s future as part of that process.
    At the news conference on May 10th, 2007 members held poster-board cutouts of the region’s six counties (Delaware, Greene, Otsego, Schoharie, Sullivan, Ulster, plus a portion of Albany County, which is geographically in the Catskills), bringing them together in a symbolic illustration of the regional unity that the group plans to foster.
    The group offers free membership in keeping with its goal of having a broad spectrum of citizen involvement.

    ‘With a combination of the web and plain old shoe-leather organizing, our goal is to bring together people who have never talked with each other and have them join in the fight to preserve the Catskill way of life,- said Ramsay Adams, the executive director of the new group.
    On its website, http://www.catskillmountainkeeper.org, the group will post updates on regional development news, operate on-line discussion boards and provide campaign-organizing advice and tools.
    ‘We all know there’s a great deal of development pressure on the Catskills, but we also know there are good and bad options under review this very moment,- said Tom Alworth, another Catskill Mountainkeeper board member and the executive director of the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development, another sponsoring organization.

    ‘When it’s out-of-scale, non-sustainable proposals like the massive casinos proposed for Sullivan County, Catskill Mountainkeeper can help get the word out – and make sure that those who want clear air, open space and a great quality of life win the day for our region,- Alworth added.

    ‘I live here, I work here, and I love living and working here, and I want the Catskills always to be a place I am proud to live in,- said Wes Gillingham, Catskill Mountainkeeper’s program director and also the co-owner of the Wild Roots Farm in Sullivan County.
    ‘The last thing my neighbors and I want to do is fight traffic, see the countryside taken over by haphazard development or breathe polluted air – so that’s why I decided to take on this job,- said Gillingham, ‘Our vision of the Catskills is for economic success by focusing on the industries that we do best, like the resurgence of farming, tourism based on the enjoyment of our natural beauty and vibrant downtowns.-
    Another Catskills farmer, Amy Kenyon, said she is looking to Catskill Mountainkeeper to provide farmers and other local residents with the tools to get their voice heard.

    Kenyon also is president of Farm Catskills, a Delaware County-based group intended to strengthen farming in the region. ‘If our rural character is to survive, we need a good regional vision that protects our region’s wonderful vistas, open spaces and farmland – the things that make us different,- said Kenyon.

    Patrick H. Dollard, the chief executive officer of The Center for Discovery – Sullivan County’s largest employer – also endorsed Catskill Mountainkeeper.
    The group will open an office in Youngsville, Sullivan County, this June. Other major sponsoring organizations are the Natural Resources Defense Council and Audubon New York.

    Contact Information:
    Catskill Mountainkeeper

    Contact Person:
    Wes Gillingham
    Program Director
    Phone: 845 439 8388
    email: email

    Web: http://www.catskillmountainkeeper.org

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