City Takes On State Rep. Over Demolished Former School

Monday, August 29, 2011


A longstanding controversy in Providence reached its boiling point over the weekend as the owners of a historic Federal Hill property moved forward with its demolition even after the city’s Director of Inspections & Standards and the Building Official ordered the work come to a halt, according to the Taveras administration.

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The city originally declared the former Grove Street School, which is owned by the family of State Representative Michael Tarro, a serious safety hazard and ordered that the crumbling building be demolished in advance of Hurricane Irene. But after agreeing on a strategy for securing the building through the storm, the city suspended the demolition Saturday morning.

City Will Seek Legal Action

Hours later, a demolition crew hired by the Tarro’s continued to take down the infrastructure despite the city’s claim that the demolition permit had been revoked. The crew continued to work until the police arrived.

According to a press release issued by the city, Mayor Taveras will pursue legal action against the Tarro family.

“Mayor Angel Taveras expressed deep frustration and disappointment with the property owners for again attempting to raze the historic building without authorization, and said the City will pursue all legal remedies against them including criminal and civil charges,” the release stated.

State Rep: Demolition Order Was Not Revoked

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In an e-mail sent Sunday evening, Rep. Tarro told GoLocalProv that City Building Official Kerry Anderson told him the building’s demolition order had not been revoked and that the work would continue today.

“Let me again state that Mr. Anderson indicated to me that he was ordering the immediate demolition of the structure and that he issued a demolition order and permit for demolition on August 26, 2011; that he revoked the permit on August 27, 2011, indicating to me that the sole reason was that demolition could not be completed before the storm; that the demolition order was not being revoked and is still in place; and that the demolition was to continue immediately after the storm on Monday, August 29, 2011, as soon as he issues a new demolition permit,” Tarro wrote.

An Ongoing Battle

The saga with the vacant school goes back more than four years when the Tarro family originally sought to have the building torn down. A judge ordered that the building be demolished in 2008, a decision neighborhood residents have railed against ever since.

Community activist Libby Kimzey called the decision to tear down the building Saturday an example of “stark opportunism.”

“I am grateful that none of my neighbors were hurt from the dangerous combination of hurricane winds and self-centered policy-makers,” she said. “On display Saturday was stark opportunism. The property-owning Tarro's put their private business interests ahead of the safety of our neighborhood.”

Kimzey said her questions surrounding the demolition went unanswered Saturday.

“There is no way that an unsecured pile of debris would have weathered Hurricane Irene better than the exposed Grove Street School that has survived the past four years,” she said. “Yet, Saturday morning, when I asked police officers, city officials, and property owner Michael Tarro what the plan was for the area after the building's destruction, none offered me a more satisfying hope than that the heavier brick would weigh down the flightier materials once piled in a heap.”


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