Today’s Providence Journal features an op-ed from New York Times journalist Charles Bagli about how New York City has abandoned port gentrification plans for the city’s Red Hook neighborhood and is instead now looking to grow the area’s working waterfront:

The Red Hook Piers, one of the last working waterfronts in New York, have seemed destined for the kind of high-gloss gentrification that was enveloping much of the city. Cargo piers would become marinas and cruise ship terminals; warehouses would be transformed into restaurants, luxury condominiums and corporate conference centers.

But the administration of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, which once actively fostered that upscale vision for the waterfront, has begun moving toward maintaining and even expanding maritime industry in Brooklyn, from Red Hook to Sunset Park.

Where a developer once hoped to build a fancy marina, the city now plans to install a beer and wine importer. Nearby, a cement company has opened a shipping terminal. The container port at the north end of Red Hook plans to expand. And the city expects to sign a deal to open an automobile shipping and storage operation at the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal . . .

The credit crunch and slowing economy have deterred new development. Influential politicians, led by Representative Jerrold L. Nadler, have fought to preserve a dwindling supply of high-paying longshoreman jobs and the waterfront’s ability to handle water-borne freight. And the operator of the Red Hook container port successfully foiled the city’s attempts to oust it.

Beyond those factors, the Bloomberg administration seems more determined to maintain and even expand the number of blue-collar jobs on the waterfront, perhaps because Wall Street and the real estate industry are in turmoil. Shipping more cargo to Brooklyn will also reduce truck traffic into the city, officials say.

With similar market conditions facing local condo and hotel developers, and with a vibrant working waterfront in the Port of Providence that is poised to grow, Providence officials should follow New York City’s example and abandon mixed-use port gentrification plans.

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