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Strengthen the Working Waterfront

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I agree with Matt and with David Carroll, who takes up the topic today in a ProJo op-ed: as Rhode Island struggles with joblessness, Providence's Working Waterfront should be stregthened, not weakened.

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.

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