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Cove Park’s Cranes Could Remain Decapitated, or Worse

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Crane Cove Park, a long-awaited waterfront commons located at Pier 70, is expected to open early next year without the iconic crane booms that gave the park its name. The greenspace will offer public access to a beach, boat landing and, in 2021, an aquatic center featuring a small cafe and meeting space. But the fate of the cranes hangs in the air; at least one may be temporarily, possibly permanently, replaced by an art installation.

Striking images of the cranes against the sky were once a familiar sight along the Central Waterfront. The tops of them, which locals affectionately call “Nick and Nora,” were initially removed to be rehabilitated and seismically retrofitted. While the Port of San Francisco was able to restore the bottom parts of the cranes – which remain in place – it determined that replacing the booms was too costly.

The booms, historic relics of a bygone era, are being stored offsite. According to Bruce Huie, Dogpatch Neighborhood Association (DNA) president, they’re unlikely to return home anytime soon. “One of the cranes is just not in a possible reconstruction state.” said Huie, who is leading efforts to bring at least one of the cranes back at a cost of up to $1.8 million. However, he’s pessimistic that the money will be raised.

 “[The park] is something we’ve been working with the community on for a long time and it’s going to be a wonderful asset to the City and the region,” said Randy Quezada, communications director for the Port of San Francisco. “The cranes are historic resources, so that’s why the tops really need to come back.”

Quezada explained that the booms have been environmentally remediated, chiefly through protective repainting. He asserted that the plan is to reinstall them by 2022.

“The cranes are an unofficial symbol of Dogpatch, and the neighborhood has a real affection for the them,” said Dogpatch resident Patricia Kline, who first dubbed them Nick and Nora on her blog. “The Port pretty much beheaded the cranes, and we were all pretty shocked by that.”

“I am utterly crestfallen and disappointed” commented Susan Eslick, DNA vice president. “While the Port says they are committed to bringing the cranes back, the cost for doing so is running in the multiple millions. Even if the community put all of their heart and soul into trying to raise some funds, they would never get to the amount required to bring them back. And, I don’t believe the Port is that committed in the effort to do so.”

The fate of Copra Crane, which operated along Islais Creek, doesn’t bode well for Nick and Nora. City officials had also promised to repair and reinstall that hoist, partially in an homage to the area’s labor history. When Copra restoration costs topped $1.4 million, the Port diverted a $616,534 grant originally designated for its refurbishment to another Islais Creek project. Copra Crane ended up sitting in pieces in a yard nearby.

Huie helped secure New York-based artist Tom Fruin to develop an art installation at Crane Cove Park. Fruin is known for creating largescale works that mimic local structures using steel and stained plexiglass.

“There are no checks and balances here” said Topher Delaney, landscape artist and longtime community advocate. Delaney previously raised money and held community meetings demonstrating how Port renderings of the park were misleading the community. She explained that while an architect may be able to understand the renderings, the general public isn’t necessarily aware of how to interpret them. As a result, vital information – such as how the park may be overshadowed by towering buildings – can go unnoticed until it’s too late.

While Delaney acknowledged that Fruin is an accomplished artist, she added that selecting a creative without engaging the public first points to a lack of democratic processes.

“What about all the other artists? How come they didn’t get a chance?” Delaney said. “There’s no competition here. It does not ultimately seem like the best process and definitely does not benefit the working-class people.” 

“It’s really a work in progress” reflected Huie on the fate of Cove Park.

“Let’s just see what this park actually turns out to look like; I’m not holding my breath on it” said Eslick.

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