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Downtown Providence

West Broadway, Neighborhood Association Community Involvement Award, Gas Meter Advocacy Effort

When National Grid began to dig up Knight Street on Providence’s West Side and install large, unsightly gas meters on the front of historic houses without homeowners’ permission, neighbors reacted immediately and organized under the leadership of the West Broadway Neighborhood Association (WBNA). Led by WBNA Executive Director Kari Lang and Knight Street resident turned neighborhood activist Jessica Jennings, WBNA hosted several public meetings between incensed residents and indifferent representatives from National Grid. The actions resulted in considerable media coverage and promises from elected officials to help with the issue.

The gas meter issue is yet to be resolved as National Grid refuses to heed residents’ requests to not install the new meters on the front of houses. Legislators in the Rhode Island General Assembly have introduced bills that would require the utility to give preference to less visually prominent locations for the meters, and to consult with property owners before doing the work. Additionally, in local historic districts, the proposed law would give preservation commissions jurisdiction over these alterations to the streetscape. If the bills become law, it will be in large part thanks to the grassroots advocacy effort started by a few distressed residents and galvanized by the WBNA.