Letter: Keeping Metacomet green: A moral imperative

Posted

To the editor:

I believe the exasperation being expressed by so many East Providence residents regarding this proposal is not motivated by the clichéd NIMBYism that typically accompanies large-scale development projects. There’s an altogether different feel to this. Instead, I believe it’s motivated by a highly attuned sense of moral outrage at the curious cascading circumstances surrounding this deal dating back several years:

City charitably allowing the Golf Club to slip deeper and deeper into tax arrears

Drawing of the Census Tract 104 Opportunity Zone boundary less than a year prior to the April 2019 acquisition by a new ownership group

Grandiose promises publicly made to a community about plans to keep this property functioning for “generations to come”

Presence, on the development team, of personalities for whom a reasonable case for recusal could be made, owing to their fingerprints on these and other curiosities

Rhode Islanders have a heightened sense of when they’re getting a raw deal (see: Gaspee Affair). Townies, in particular, proved that they punch above their weight when they saved the Crescent Park Carousel and kept it spinning in situ, a carousel which by many scholarly opinions is the finest carousel still in operation, and which was nearly destroyed by shortsighted greed.

The old adage is “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” The outrage towards this proposal stems from the moral imperative that good things (massive windfalls, via flip and development) should not happen to people as a result of their abject failure to live up to their word. A game was played during this Metacomet Affair, where the rules were “Heads, I win. Tails, you lose.” Townies are not willing to play this game. They have no patience for this game. They have no tolerance for this game. Not only are they not willing to play this game, they are willing to pillory anybody who dares to drag them into this game. That is the extent to which this community feels betrayed.

It’s a far cry from NIMBYism; this community would accept any number of developments in a city filled with decaying vacant lots. But demolishing this particular parcel, a pristine meadowland, and positioning in its stead a new “Live, Work, Play” community abutting a modest neighborhood strikes many as a note far too sour at a time of a global pandemic and the looming spectre of economic disaster.

East Providence racing to attach itself ever further to Providence’s concrete urbanization by shedding its presumably perpetual Open Space is a race that this community simply does not want to run. Unlike the word of some, who make public promises about maintaining this property as an Open Space for “generations to come,” the word of this community actually has weight. Unlike the word of some, who say one thing and then do the exact opposite thing, the final word on this deal belongs to the community. It is the word of the community that will decide its fate. And the word of the community is a resounding “No.”

Ben Schwartz

East Providence

2020 by East Bay Newspapers

Barrington · Bristol · East Providence · Little Compton · Portsmouth · Tiverton · Warren · Westport
Meet our staff
Scott Pickering

Scott Pickering has been on the East Bay Newspapers team for more than two decades, since starting as a reporter for the Sakonnet Times. He's been editor of most of the papers, was Managing Editor of all the papers for many years, and became General Manager in 2012. Today he can be found posting to EastBayRI.com, steering news coverage, writing editorials, talking to readers, working with the sales team, collaborating on design, or helping do whatever it takes to get the papers out the door. Reach him at spickering@eastbaynewspapers.com.