A Hummel Report InvestigationThe giant scrap pile along the waterfront in Providence is impossible to miss as you drive north on Route 95. It is also the target of a lawsuit filed in 2012 by Patrick Conley, who owns an historic building adjacent to the property - and at times a 70-foot mountain of scrap - owned by Sims Metal Management . Conley has been waiting more than four years for his day in court - to show a judge and jury the damage he says Sims has done to his building: causing cracks, forcing out tenants and making some parts of the structure unusable. So why the delay?
The four-story brick building has been a fixture between Allens Avenue and the Providence waterfront since 1899. Patrick Conley bought the turn-of-the-century building more than a decade ago, and later envisioned Conley’s Wharf as part of a plan to transform the north end of the waterfront into a mixed use area with restaurants, hotels and residences.
Conley’s company, Providence Piers, invested $7 million to transform the building, including this fourth-floor meeting room overlooking the Providence River.
Conley: ``Well, it was kind of a bottomless pit. We hadn’t anticipated that kind of a cost, but as we got into it the cost rose.’’
When it was finished the building, which had received state and federal tax credits, went onto the National Register of Historic Places and began to attract tenants. But in late 2011, Sims Metal Management bought land adjacent to Conley’s property and began stockpiling scrap metal.
It’s a familiar site to anyone travelling on Route 95 north the past five years. And from Conley’s building next door, the view goes from this…..to this.
Conley: ``They actually closed and dumped their scrap right on the land itself, without even putting a concrete pad, which they’ve done since. They just dumped the scrap in October, November of 2011 and they built the scrap pile initially up to a height of almost 80 feet. Millions of tons of scrap.’’
And that, Conley said, had an immediate effect on his building.
Conley: ``All of a sudden cracks started to appear throughout those additions, totaling 8 or 9 thousand square feet, to the point where they had to be vacated because they were unsafe. Because that area could collapse at any minute because the cracks are an inch or two wide and getting wider all of the time.’’
Providence Piers filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Providence, seeking injunctions to stop Sims, all of which were denied.
Hummel: ``Do you feel like the defendants are just trying to run the clock here?’’
Conley: ``Oh, no question, they feel that the longer they can string this out, the more likely I am to run out of money. ‘’
Sims maintains that it is not responsible for any of the damage and that Conley’s building was settling anyway.