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Ward 1 Primary Preview

Meet the Candidates – Seth Yurdin and Justice Gaines

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If you were to look up gerrymandering in the dictionary, you would see the Ward I Council map. The Ward is made up of Fox Point, Lower Wayland, the Jewelry District, and a large section of Downtown. While the growth in residents is more in the Jewelry District and Downtown, the “foundation” remains in Fox Point.

For decades, Ward 1 was a solid working-class neighborhood where the Councilperson (Alderman, before that) was born here or was a long-term resident. The Ward was always plowed first in a storm because the plow drivers or their mothers lived here! Then a very ambitious Brown student with a very progressive agenda, David Segal, leveraged the Brown undergraduate vote in a presidential election year and captured the seat and it has stayed in the Progressive Democratic corner since.

While there are some Fox Point residents that walk across the Point Street Bridge to work or to downtown, there is little in reverse traffic except for Adler’s and the Wickenden / South Main / Ives restaurants.

Both candidates are Progressive Democrats and have similar positions on most of the issues and fundamentally agree that Ward 1 is in good shape.

Seth Yurdin
Seth Yurdin, 50 of Governor Street is the incumbent who was first elected in 2006. He is a native of Long Island, New York, who came to the East Side in 1999. Yurdin is a lawyer with an eclectic resume encompassing community service and political activism. He led the RI chapter of Democracy for America and traveled to Mississippi with the American Red Cross to manage a shelter for residents displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

“After a lot of hard work, we’re finally seeing some exciting changes for Ward 1”, exclaims Yurdin, "Ives Street streets and sidewalks have been improved, Wickenden Street will be repaved, and new local restaurants and businesses are having great successes. Gregorian Elementary School remains one of the top elementary schools in the City and the funding that I helped obtained to turn the Fox Point Bath House into a library has been completed as well as major repairs at India Point Park and new plots for the Fox Point Community Garden. The power lines will be relocated from the Park - but we need to keep pushing to get those buried.”

“Citywide, we’ve seen some gains in affordable housing, living wages and I have been a leader on issues of transparency and corruption, and improving police policies regarding the treatment of youths and LGBTQ individuals as well as the environment, climate change and common sense solutions to gun violence. I opposed the proposed Fane Tower which most of the Jewelry District believes is out of character for the area,” he adds.

That being said, new challenges and threats to the Ward will need to be addressed. The issue of how many non-related people can live in a house is at the top of the list as a return to the flop-houses on Benefit Street and in Fox Point would hurt, not only the character and quality of life but also property values. “The City is finally ramping up Code Enforcement, from what I’ve been hearing as I walk, but the legal department still hasn’t come up with a solution on the number of non-related residents and this remains a priority for me.”

Justice Gaines
Justice Gaines, 23 of Wickenden Street, grew up in Somerset, NJ and came to RI to attend Brown. Gaines is a trans woman, which she explains “drives her perspective.” She works as an organizer and labor rights advocate for RI Jobs with Justice and was a member of the working group for the Providence Community-Police Relations Act. She is active in the poetry and performing arts communities and has served as a mentor in creative writing for local youth.

She is running for City Council because she believes that the City needs “more creative, non-traditional solutions” and believes that she is someone who can “bridge communities.” “Providence has the potential for great things from within but need more proactive thinking,” Gaines explains.

“Ward 1 is in better shape than other areas of the city but still needs work, especially the maintenance of the streets,” she says. “Residents should be informed of quality of life issues that affect their neighborhood, like street closures, detours, and festivals so they are not inconvenienced,” she adds. She has issues with the police department, the lack of affordable housing (which is a “crisis citywide”) and wants more student input and involvement in social and educational policies that directly affect them. She thinks that Brown “takes more than it gives back” and always seems to come out ahead when dealing with the City.

She would like to see a “rent stabilization or rent control ordinance that would protect landlord’s rights but would also protect tenants” and is also against the Fane Tower.