John Everson: Thriving waterfront belies attack

Patrick Conley’s letter of Jan. 24 (“Solomon hypocritical about ‘openness’ ”), blaming everyone but himself for his failed “Providence Piers” project, is filled with factual errors and near slanderous allegations. It is fair to say that his claims are as bankrupt as his project.

Mr. Conley inaccurately states that the City Council’s Ordinance Committee never held a public hearing on his proposal to rezone Allens Avenue’s industrial working waterfront to allow for an incompatible mixed-use hotel and marina fantasyland smack in the middle of an oil terminal, an asphalt plant, and a commercial repair shipyard. In fact, the Ordinance Committee held two public hearings in June 2010, where a majority of attendees spoke against his plan and in favor of maintaining strong industrial zoning to protect the area’s heavy industrial businesses.

Mr. Conley next conjures up a wild conspiracy theory regarding the sale of State Pier No. 1 by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management to the former Promet Marine, claiming that the Federal Bureau of Investigation should open an investigation into the transaction. The first place the FBI can look to is the Rhode Island Supreme Court, which in March 2008 handed down a decision (Tidewater Realty v. State of Rhode Island et al.) requiring DEM to sell the property to Promet Marine, which had previously leased the land from the state. In that case, the court found that the Providence Redevelopment Agency had improperly taken the property out from under Promet, which had initially bid for and signed a purchase-and-sale agreement with the state for the land.

Three years later, Promet sold its deep-water pier facility to Sims Metal Management, the largest publicly traded metals recycling company in the world. Sims has since invested millions of dollars in the property, creating new jobs and turning the pier into a world-class export facility. Sims made this investment precisely because of the property’s access to our 40-foot deepwater channel and industrial zoning.

As the owner of Narragansett Improvement, which has operated on Allens Avenue for over 120 years, I deeply appreciate the leadership of Providence Mayor Angel Taveras and City Council President Michael Solomon, who understand the need to maintain industrial zoning for our working waterfront.

While Mr. Conley’s ill-conceived project has gone under, the industrial businesses on Allens Avenue continue to thrive, providing hundreds of good-paying blue-collar jobs, generating hundreds of millions of dollars in total economic impact, and providing resources like oil heat, gasoline, asphalt and road salt that power our region’s economy.

John Everson is the owner of Narragansett Improvement and a founding member of the Providence Working Waterfront Alliance.

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