Gonzalo Cuervo: Providence needs to rezone and expand the green economy“The City of Providence has to have a plan in place to rezone and to look for new opportunities in the green economy [and] in different economic sectors that don’t generate human misery and illness,” said Providence Mayoral candidate Gonzalo Cuervo. “There’s an opportunity for this. It’s not an either/or choice.”
Published on June 22, 2022
By Steve Ahlquist
Given the non-stop attempts to bring more polluting industries to the Port of Providence and the constant defensive posture of neighborhood groups and environmental organizations, is it time to re-zone Providence to do away with unhealthy and community damaging industries and work towards building a green industrial base in the city? Uprise RI brought this question to Gonzalo Cuervo, the only Providence Mayoral candidate to attend yesterday’s rally against a bill to bring pyrolysis, the burning of plastic for fuel, at the Rhode Island State House.
UpriseRI: Is it time for Providence to start thinking seriously about rezoning?
Gonzalo Cuervo: Absolutely. Look, we’ve been at this forever. I raised my kids in Washington Park and I’ve stood with activists and The People’s Port Authority to fight against the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure. Last year we stood to shut down a recycle cement grinding plant. It was literally 200 feet away from a health clinic. And now we’re talking about burning plastic in the year 2022. It’s illogical and it just keeps coming back and coming back and coming back – and you know, in the 20th century, people could talk their way out of accountability when it comes to co-locating these polluting dangerous facilities immediately next to a residential neighborhood, [but] those times have passed.
People won’t stand for this. The City of Providence has to have a plan in place to rezone and to look for new opportunities in the green economy [and] in different economic sectors that don’t generate human misery and illness. There’s an opportunity for this. It’s not an either/or choice. We have a buffet of options at our disposition, but I think the city needs to take a leadership role and not so much always having community groups addressing this around the periphery. Whether it’s at a zoning board or at a city planning board or in front of the legislature, I think there is a role for the mayor and the city council to define what we want the future of that zone to be.
Of course we want it to be a job creation zone. Of course we want it to be a place that provides revenue for the city and grows the city’s tax base. But we can’t do that through these industries that pollute, they generate illness. And at the end of the day, they’re not really creating jobs. They’re very low in terms of the number of jobs they create. It’s minimal. But what they are doing is creating pollution and misery and that’s unacceptable.
Uprise RI: One of the things I noticed when they were discussing this bill inside the State House – and I went to most of the meetings – I didn’t hear anybody from the City of Providence… talking about the fact that this bill was taking power away from local municipalities to determine whether or not they even wanted this in there neighborhoods.
Cuervo: Unfortunately that appears to be a recurring theme. The city sits in the back seat for whatever reason. Maybe they have a legislative package that they’re trying to push or whatever, [but] it’s unacceptable. We need to take a leadership role. We’re talking about people’s lives. We’re talking about a neighborhood, Washington Park that has one of the highest childhood asthma rates in the state…
Uprise RI: In New England.
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Cuervo: And we’re literally talking about a neighborhood that abuts an industrial zone. We’re not talking about NIMBYism, we’re talking about people’s lives and people’s health.
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