Archive | Environment

Rumor: tree removal?

Tree at 28 Foch Avenue

July 6, 2011 – 2pm: We are pulling this story for 24 hours.

Waiting on a response from the city.

In 2004, the City passed a regulation in its Zoning Ordinance (Sec. 425.1, “Removal of Significant Trees”) that protects trees that are 32 inches in diameter or greater (measured 4.5 feet above the ground), regardless of location. No “Significant Tree” shall be removed without prior permission of the City Forester. Any person wishing to remove a Significant Tree shall file a request to do so with the City Forester. The request must meet certain criteria in order to receive approval, most notably that the tree poses a danger to human safety, health, and welfare. Call the City Forester at 785-9450 for more information

Now them’s what I call street trees


Now when someone is required to plant street trees, this is what I want to see. Those are all brand new trees on the left outside the soon to open Brown Medical School in the Jewelry District. Not only are there numerous large new trees here, the parking lane has been removed to widen the sidewalk!

I’m pretty sure these trees will end up being a What Cheer at the end of the year.


News & Notes

Across Europe, Irking Drivers Is Urban Policy [The New York Times]

While American cities are synchronizing green lights to improve traffic flow and offering apps to help drivers find parking, many European cities are doing the opposite: creating environments openly hostile to cars. The methods vary, but the mission is clear – to make car use expensive and just plain miserable enough to tilt drivers toward more environmentally friendly modes of transportation.

Some local greens on the Greenway []

A public food market in downtown Boston will feature up to 100 vendors of fish, produce, wine, cheese, and other local products in a facility that will feel more like a bustling European bazaar than a grocery store, according to an operating plan released by the state yesterday.

After years of false starts and dead ends, state agricultural officials unveiled a detailed layout and financial plan for the market that will operate out of a state-owned building on the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway near Faneuil Hall and the Haymarket pushcart vendors.

Two words: Kennedy Plaza.
Two more words: The Arcade

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Rozalia Project for a Clean Ocean ROV Submarine Demo at Community Boating Center, July 7

Rozalia Project
Photo from Rozalia Project Facebook Page

Community Boating Center Partners with Rozalia Project for a Clean Ocean for ROV Submarine Demo

July 7, 2011 • 6pm-8pm

Providence, RI – The Community Boating Center (CBC) has announced that it will host a public ROV submarine demo program run by the Rozalia Project for a Clean Ocean on 7/7/11, 6-8 pm, at CBC in India Point Park, Providence.

The Rozalia Project for a Clean Ocean is dedicated to finding and removing trash and marine debris from the ocean and working with waterfront groups, municipalities, non-profits, individuals, sailing centers, yacht clubs and people who want to protect the water to get cleaning and spread the word about marine debris, it’s prevention and how to be part of the solution.

The Rozalia team will be in Providence to spread the word, look for and clean up trash and demonstrate how their equipment works. Join Rozalia and Community Boating Center in Providence on 7/07 from 6-8 pm to learn about marine debris and how it affects the Providence River. This live demo will allow participants to observe the ROV and sonar flying around the river bottom.

John O’Flaherty, Executive Director, Community Boating Center commented “The Rozalia Project is a must-see experience. Similar to viewing a great movie or performance, its over before you are ready for it to be. The Rozalia team has an energy and welcoming presence that when combined with captivating technology like an ROV submersible or side-scan sonar produces a sure-bet winner of a program.”

Rozalia Project for a Clean Ocean is a non-profit organization run by Rachael Z. Miller and James Lyne, both sailors who live (when not cleaning the ocean) in Vermont. Rozalia Project’s mothership is American Promise, Dodge Morgan’s famed circumnavigator, past sail training vessel for the US Naval Academy and now an ocean trash hunter. In addition to nets Rozalia uses a combination of ROV and sonar to search the sea floor for trash and debris. They are dedicated to clean oceans everywhere but are operating on the Northeast coast of the US in various public demo projects.

Community Boating Center (CBC) is a non-profit, 501c3 recreational organization offering all members of the community an opportunity to sail. Located in India Point Park, CBC provides outreach, sailing lessons and affordable access to the Providence waterfront. Gifts of cash or property to CBC may be treated as charitable donations for Federal Tax purposes.


The Better World Challenge: Building A Better Coastline by Design

Better World Challenge LogoIn a world of intangibles- it’s easy to get carried away with design for the sake of design. The Better World Challenge breaks free from this bubble with a design competition addressing high-impact social issues. Open to all students, the challenge takes the Better World by Design conference beyond the weekend, engaging real issues, generating creative solutions and showcasing students’ innovative ideas.

THE CHALLENGE: As sea levels rise and climates change, coastal regions must now confront the challenge of preserving their culture and community in the face of increasing threats from coastal erosion, flooding and other natural disasters. The challenge: how do you build a better coastline?

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Fine Art of Recycling

Old Refrigerator
Photo (cc) merfam


City of Providence, National Grid team up on public art project to encourage energy efficiency and recycling

PROVIDENCE, RI – The City of Providence Department of Art, Culture + Tourism and National Grid are proud to announce a Call to Artists, inviting diverse Providence and Rhode Island artists and art associations from to submit their concepts for the “Fine Art of Recycling” campaign.

This campaign will unite a passion for energy efficiency with the city’s longstanding support of creativity and artistic excellence.

In June, the top 10 artists/art associations will begin to put their creative imprints on ten refrigerators that will be placed throughout Downtown Providence for the summer months of 2011. National Grid has developed this “cool idea” to raise awareness of energy efficiency and recycling and to support local culture and the arts.

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“Elmer the Elm” lobotomized

Elmwood Avenue at Route 95. Reader submitted photo.

A reader wrote in to us several weeks ago to report the lobotomization of several trees on Elmwood Avenue at the ramp from Route 95. Among the trees that had their tops sheared off was Elmer, who survived both the widening of Elmwood Avenue, which resulted in the removal of most of its namesake trees, and the construction of Route 95. The photo below was submitted by our reader and shows Elmwood Avenue during the construction of Route 95 in 1966. Elmer is visible at right past the bridge abutments.

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Interest-free Loans Available to Improve Home Energy Efficiency

Photo (cc) Tracy O

February 28, 2011

Interest-free Loans Available to Improve Home Energy Efficiency

Loans up to $9,500 are available for families to implement energy assessment recommendations

PROVIDENCE – Mayor Angel Taveras today announced a new interest-free Residential Energy Efficiency Loan program to help eligible Providence residents make energy efficiency improvements and reduce energy bills in their homes.

Eligible applicants can use the loans to upgrade, replace, or purchase recommended high-efficiency furnaces, boilers, central air conditioning and water heating systems, as well as insulation, programmable thermostats, and select Energy Star appliances and electronics.

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Reader submitted photo

Yesterday we were getting reader reports that mature trees where being torn down at Riverview Plaza on Pitman Street (where Eastside Marketplace is located). After a bit of confusion and reports from people in the area, we received photographs from a reader showing that the trees in question were removed from the driveway nearest the Boston Sports Club building in the complex.

Screen capture from Google StreetView showing the trees before they were removed.

The trees removed were six ornamental pears, approximately 15 years old. The trees were removed by Riverview’s propery manager, KGI Properties.

According to our reader report, a spokesperson for KGI stated the trees were removed for “obstructing traffic.” I’m looking at the StreetView image and I’m just not seeing an obstruction, anyone see it? The spokesperson also stated, “the trees were interfering with lighting” and “the trees were too large.”

Seth, Amy…


Too large? Really?

Meanwhile, the contractors on scene removing the actual trees said that one of the tenants complained that their sign could not be seen from Pitman Street and that was why the trees were being removed.

Reader submitted photos

Comment from the Planning Department on this issue:

The preservation of the trees was part of the approved landscaping plan for the BSC project. Their removal is contrary to the approval and would have required an amendment to the plan by the City Plan Commission, which did not happen. Depending on what their canopy coverage figure is for the site, it might have required a zoning variance as well. These are not street trees, so the city tree ordinance does not apply regarding tree caliper replacement. However, it’s clear that they’ve violated at least the commission’s regulations, and perhaps the zoning ordinance. Some mitigation is going to be required. I expect that we’ll be seeking replacement of the tree canopy lost, with a factor that considers the maturity of the trees. I have traded phone messages with Karen Bodell, and will speak with her on Monday about how to proceed. I’m personally disappointed that these mature trees were taken down, and will do my best to ensure that this condition is corrected.

Tweet from the Planning Department:

We’ve notified KGI Properties of the improper removal of trees at Riverview Place. Meeting this week to reach a resolution.less than a minute ago via web


Bigger than Rhode Island

This has been all over the interwebs this week, so I’m playing along:

This Google Earth tool allows you to lay the oil spill* over a familiar piece of the Earth to allow you to grasp the size of the spill. Here we see, it is bigger than Rhode Island.

* Notice how I can just say, “the oil spill.” I don’t really need to describe which spill do I?


Seeking a solution

Video from WJAR-TV Providence, extended footage at WCVB-TV Boston

In the media we’ve been hearing a lot of talk about solutions to these flooding issues. People in areas prone to flooding wanting solutions from the government, etc. The fact is, there isn’t really a solution. If the Pawtuxet or other rivers want to leave their banks, they will.

But that does not mean there are not ways to mitigate the impact and severity of floods. Look at this table of the historical crests of the Pawtuxet River:

Pawtuxet River Historical Crests
Rank Height Date
(*) 20.79 ft 03/31/2010
(1) 14.98 ft 03/15/2010
(2) 14.50 ft 06/07/1982
(3) 13.68 ft 10/15/2005
(4) 13.26 ft 01/26/1979
(5) 13.11 ft 04/25/1983
(6) 12.57 ft 06/08/2006
(7) 12.40 ft 04/17/2007
(8) 11.88 ft 03/25/2010
(9) 11.86 ft 03/31/2001
(10) 11.84 ft 01/26/1978


Seven of the top 10 crests are in the last 10 years (the top 2 being this month). What is causing the river to flood so high now? I suspect that it is a combination of climate change and development in the river’s watershed. On the climate front, we just got 10 inches of rain in 2 days. That is obviously not normal. Will it happen again soon? Probably not. Thinking back over the storms we’ve had over the last decade, will it be another 50 or 100 years before it happens again? Maybe not. Climate change experts have been predicting larger, wetter storms for our region, and it certainly feels like those predictions are coming true.

On the development front, well, we here on this site quite like dense urban development. The key problem with the development patterns in the Cranston and Warwick areas is the dependence on the automobile is causing us to pave wide swathes of the landscape. That pavement prevents water from soaking into the soil and sends it all flowing directly into the river. Look at the video above, now look at this aerial image:

Image from Bing Maps

The river has nowhere to go, the mall parking lots just send the water straight into the river and when the river rises, it can’t soak into the land to dissapate the flooding. Head east and north of here and you see more pavement.

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Electric Mini-Buses

The above video highlights a new electric bus developed by Waseda University being tested in Japan. The bus runs 25km (15.5 miles) on one charge, takes 15 minutes to recharge, and the batteries cost approximately $50,000. The bus is estimated to reduce emissions by one third over a conventional bus.

In Providence, the Green Line LINK Trolley runs on a route of approximately 4.5 miles. Meaning a similar vehicle could do 3 one-way runs on a single charge. With charging stations at either end of the line, buses could take turns charging at the line termini.

Photo (cc) AaverageJoe

Meanwhile, in Québec City, the local transit agency runs the Écolobus (Site translated from French by Google). The Écolobus is a free downtown circulator service operated with electric buses. The vehicle’s maximum speed is 33km/h (20.5mph) and they have a service range of 100km (62 miles) or 12 hours. The buses take 8 hours to charge and seat 10 passengers, with room for 10 more to stand. The buses consume C$3.25 (~US$3.16) of electricity per day.

The Écolobus service is a bit different than the current LINK Trolley system RIPTA operates. The design of the bus with a large side door does not allow for fare collection, the bus driver is separated from the passengers in their own compartment. The buses are also smaller, but do the LINK Trolleys ever carry more than 20 people? If they were on a proper headway (say 7-12 minutes) crowds would remain small. The LINK service is a longer linear route, while the Québec City service is a shorter downtown circulator route.