By JOHN HOWELL What was your major accomplishment as planner for the town of North Smithfield, Tom Kravitz was asked Friday afternoon in Mayor Frank Picozzi's office? It was a question he relished. Without hesitation, he cited work with the state on the
What was your major accomplishment as planner for the town of North Smithfield, Tom Kravitz was asked Friday afternoon in Mayor Frank Picozzi’s office?
It was a question he relished. Without hesitation, he cited work with the state on the redesign of the Route 146 intersection with Salyles Road and how that traffic light – a major bottleneck in the flow of Route 146 traffic – will be eliminated while improving public safety. The $142 million project, he said, is in the design and build phase.
Picozzi knew exactly what Kravitz was talking about, although the mayor’s major reason for selecting Kravitz to head the Warwick Planning Department is not to address Warwick traffic concerns, albeit there are those, but rather to bring a fresh outlook to the department. Picozzi is looking for the city to find ways to improve services by expediting procedures with the use of technology and applying new systems.
He’s no friend of the status quo.
Since taking office, he has repeatedly commented on how slowly government operates.
His introduction to government bureaucracy was the removal of blue planters that lined Post Road in Apponaug as part of the village circulator project. Their removal seemed simple enough until it came to getting Rhode Island Department of Transportation approval. As the circulator project hinged on federal funding, more questions were raised. It took months to get an answer.
Kravitz got a taste of Picozzi’s take control and get it done mannerism Friday. The mayor has pushed the state to repair the “Welcome of Apponaug” sign on the Greenwich Avenue and Veterans Memorial Drive roundabout since a crash and fire destroyed several of the aluminum letters. After making calls to the state and getting nowhere, Picozzi tracked down the manufacturer and ordered the letters. They arrived last week and Picozzi was questioning the length of lag bolts to mount them. He plans on mounting them himself.
Kravitz looked on as Picozzi compared the new ones that were shorter than those of the mangled letter retrieved from the accident scene.
So, what attracted Kravitz to apply for the city post that opened when the mayor named Bruce Keiser economic development director?
Kravitz said he viewed the post as an opportunity to expand his career working in a larger community and with a bigger staff. Kravitz grew up in the Valley Falls section of Cumberland, where at an early age he started working in his father’s print shop, Kravitz’s Printing. He lives in Burrillville with his wife, Darya, and two children, Dezond and Leonora. He holds a master’s degree in community planning and landscape architecture from the University of Rhode Island, and a bachelor’s degree in earth sciences, meteorology from California University of Pennsylvania. He has also worked for the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation and the city of Cranston and served on the board of directors for the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor.
He was named planning director for the town of Burrillville in 2001, a post he held until 2016, when he was named North Smithfield town planner.
In a NRI NOW (Northeaster RI News On the Web) interview, he said he is especially proud of his role in assisting the town acquire 114 acres of open space through a $429,000 purchase of a lot on Old Smithfield Road from the Souza family. Kravitz applied for – and won – a $214,500 grant from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management to cover half of the expense.
Asked what he knows of Warwick, Kravitz names Oakland Beach and Rocky Point as locations he’s frequented. Picozzi interjects that he’ll be introducing him to the neighborhoods.
“I think of the city differently now,” Kravitz said of his position. With the city’s central location, he sees opportunities in commercial and resident developments. He notes that the pandemic has changed how many of us work and the demand for office space.
As for the locally hot topic of a Warwick solar ordinance, Kravitz pointed out that North Smithfield allows for roof panels and canopy arrays over parking lots without additional approvals. (The ordinance to be considered by the City Council on Aug. 16 similarly allows for roof arrays and parking lot canopies.)