There is no profit in silence

November 21st, 2008

David Carroll, a local resident who has spent his entire life living and working around the Port of Providence, has an eloquent opinion piece in today’s Providence Journal which argues for maintaining a working waterfront:

While much has clearly changed since those days, the Port of Providence remains a vibrant waterfront, filled with activity and commerce. Today, the piers and wharves of the Providence River handle ships and barges that bring in gasoline, home-heating oil, cement, highway rock salt and coal. They also take on scrap metal for export to international ports.

For some reason, however, city leaders seem to think there is something unattractive about this scene. They have commissioned studies that show a future Allens Avenue waterfront without any marine or industrial businesses. Similarly, developers show off fancy renderings of waterfront condos, hotels and recreational marinas that leave out any views of the area’s piers, oil-storage tanks, and salt and coal piles.

I find many of these supposedly “ugly” and “noisy” businesses — boat repair, scrap-metal handling, and oil, coal and salt offloading — to be beautiful, and music to my ears. Why? Because those “ugly,” “dirty” and “noisy” businesses that the city seems so intent on doing away with represent commerce and good jobs that Rhode Island cannot afford to lose . . .

When I go to bed at night, I often hear the scrap cranes loading ships at ProvPort’s Wharf No. 6 berth, and the big dump trucks scuttling about. Most folks probably think this is a nuisance, but to me it is a good sound, the sound of men working and stevedores loading cargo into warehouses. The clatter and clanking at midnight are truly a joyful noise. There is no profit in silence.

Matt Jerzyk over at the popular blog Rhode Island’s Future agrees, and has a post “Providence (still) Ignores its Working Waterfront” that asks why Providence elected officials continue to push a rezoning plan that threatens working waterfront jobs:

Yes. Very well said. We also have some political questions. In this sour economic climate, is it possible for Mayor Cicilline to run for Governor without having enacted a comprehensive jobs and green jobs agenda? Similarly, is is possible for Ward 10 Councilman Luis Aponte to run for Mayor in this economic climate if he supports gentrification and opposes job creation at the port? Time will tell.

Expanding job opportunities at the working waterfront provides Mayor Cicilline a great complement to the work he is doing to open up the construction trades to Providence workers. He should stop the city’s Quotidian quest for residential expansion in an industrial zone and support living wage job creation along the Providence Port. Considering today’s unemployment numbers, the sooner, the better.

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