Just three months ago, this struggling city of 19,400 residents teamed with Citizinvestor, a crowdfunding platform for community projects, to raise $10,000 for artsy steel trash cans and recycling bins in Jenks Park.
Initially, the fundraising effort, the first of its kind in Rhode Island, inched forward very slowly with just a couple of hundred dollars trickling in.
But, on Thursday, Central Falls, the first city in state history to undergo federal bankruptcy, reached its goal after Mayor James A. Diossa kicked in $30 to bring the total to $10,400.
“For the first time in RI history a project has been FULLY funded through crowdfunding,” Diossa said in a Twitter feed. “Thank you to everyone who made this historical moment in RI possible. Your generous contributions made this project possible.”
Stephen Larrick, the city’s director of planning and economic development, credited The Providence Journal and The Boston Globe for publicizing the fundraising efforts through stories published in each newspaper. He also said that two YouTube videos were produced: one by Diossa explaining the project and another from The Steel Yard, a group of local artists in Providence who designed the trash cans and recycling bins.
“Trash bins are not the sexiest thing,” Larrick said. “To be honest with you, I was very nervous at the beginning.”
A total of 68 made contributions to improve Jenks Park, one of the few public open spaces in the center of this densely populated 1.3-square-mile city. The park is on Broad Street next to Central Falls City Hall.
Larrick said that the donations came from Rhode Island and Massachusetts. The largest sum came from an anonymous donor who chipped in $2,000, while state Rep. Agostinho F. Silva, D-Central Falls, helped secure a legislative grant for $1,500. Another unnamed donor gave the project nearly $2,000.
Some of the donations were as small as $1. The trash cans and recycling bins are expected to be installed in the spring. Larrick said that there will be five 30-gallon units that will combine the trash and recycling. He said the city will seek public input about the design of the receptacles.
“It’s a clever way to get public art in the park during difficult economic times,” he said.
City officials are gearing up for another crowdfunding project. Larrick said that they want to talk to community residents and see what they might have in mind. He said that one idea that grabs him is the possibility of installing concrete chess tables in the park.
Central Falls High School has gained national prominence for producing some of the top chess teams in the country. The park is just two blocks from the high school and the chess players can take advantage of the peaceful setting on tables that could resemble those in public spots in New York City.
Citizinvestor was launched in September 2012 and it has been involved in public projects in Oregon, California, Philadelphia and Boston.
Jordan Raynor, co-founder of Citizinvestor, hailed the success of the Central Falls project.
“Not only did citizens invest their money in this project,” he said. “But, they also invested their time at a clean-up day held at the park in late October.”
Central Falls was declared bankrupt in federal court in August 2011, but emerged from insolvency just 13 months later. Since then, many of the city’s residents, which is more than 60 percent Latino, have gotten involved in politics and community affairs. Just last month, two Latino women under 30 years old were elected to the City Council.
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