Re-Introducing: Dr. Downtown, David Brussat

Monday, October 27, 2014


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This new feature of GoLocalProv contemplates the inglorious but incontestable fact that Rhode Island and its capital city, Providence, are a work in progress. Like any work in progress it calls for serious consideration of a range of issues, including those matters of design and development upon which your correspondent has been ruminating with considerable energy for three decades, until lately, at the Providence Journal, often in cahoots with his alter ego Dr. Downtown. 

As with any living artifact, the editorial mood of this column will have ups and downs, resulting in opinions on which readers might choose to disagree. Readers may seek explanation for or retraction of these opinions or their manner of expression through "Ask Dr. Downtown," an occasional forum for airing such disagreeable fare that will be a feature of this column.

East Side Subdivision - Good Idea?

Monday evening is to be the scene of a community meeting at the Rochambeau Library to discuss the subdivision by Leonard and Paula Granoff of their land on Blackstone Boulevard. Filling almost an entire block immediately north of the boulevard's crossing at Rochambeau Avenue, 460 Rochambeau was built for RISD professor William E. Brigham in 1915. The mansion’s design, by Eleazor Homer, blends Italianate with Mediterranean. It is the last great estate along the boulevard, a thoroughfare that has been subdivided again and again.

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Granoff Estate

The Granoffs want to divide the land into 12 parcels for purchasers who would hire their own architects to design up to 11 new houses. One may sympathize with the Granoffs' allegedly dicey tax situation and respect their right to subdivide their land. But neighbors have no obligation to sit tight and settle for who knows what. Their property values are at stake here, too. The Granoffs can have no reason to complain if their neighbors urge them to do all they can to prevent a subdivision that would degrade the charms of the boulevard. A diligent stewardship of the process will be vital if the Granoffs would like to maintain their deserved reputation as pillars of the community.

For example, it is rumored that cutting up the property and parceling it out for new houses would mean demolition for the fabulous wall bordering the property along Blackstone and Rochambeau. This would be an unnecessary assault upon the character of the boulevard. A dirt road along the inside of the wall, leading to the main exit to Rochambeau, would eliminate the need to tear down the wall. Its retention can only add value to each parcel. Likewise, the number of trees cut down should be kept to a bare minimum.

Above all, residential architecture on the parcels should be of the highest quality, maintaining rather than degrading the standards that prevail in the neighborhood, especially along the boulevard. The two houses built just south of Laurel Avenue argue that the community has not been perfectly diligent in protecting its beauty. Here is its opportunity to make up for that lapse in its own stewardship. There is no reason that the Granoffs cannot make the most of their land by taking the high road along Blackstone Boulevard, nor is there any reason to doubt that the low road is likely to be more costly.

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Buddy's Toupee

Dr. Downtown recently sent his fake mustache undercover to interview Buddy's "toop," under house arrest at The 903, where the erstwhile mayor, Vincent A. “Buddy” Cianci Jr., rests his presumably naked pate at night.

Dr. D's Fake Mustache: Does the Mayor put you on at night?

Toop: He does not. I am being punished. I sit on his rug rack day in and day out, thinking about my past topping off the top dog. It has been 12 years.

DDFM: Has he informed you that he is running for mayor again?

Toop: No! Is he winning? If he does, he will don me again for sure. I am his cover-up, especially under the Plunder Dome.

DDFM: Does this mean a rugless Buddy is honest? How do you know he has not learned from his four years a convict? He may not want your services.

Toop: What? I beg your pardon! This interview is over!

Keep 'em on their Toes"

The candidate has been silent on whether, if elected, he will reign topless or have recourse again to his signature laugh line. A toupee is not illegal on the outside. The media have not nailed him down on this important issue.

With the late, lamented Phillipe & Jorge down for the count, Dr. Downtown will leap into their shoes to keep an eye on the Urinal. BeloJo was a poor jokey moniker for the Journal, and BlowJo is beneath the doctor’s dignity. But the word urinal is a respectable multisyllabic euphemism for the toilet down which your intrepid correspondent was recently flushed. Keeping the competition honest will be a dirty job, but somebody has to do it, and Dr. Downtown has volunteered to do it for

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David Brussat

David Brussat was an editorial writer and architecture critic at the Providence Journal for 30 years, and now writes an independent blog, He lives in Providence.


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