The Shipyard can uplift the people

Editorial by Willie Ratcliff

When I came here from Texas, I worked at the Hunters Point Shipyard. Many of you who are reading this paper can say the same. You or your parents or grandparents came here from Texas or Louisiana or Arkansas or Mississippi to work at the Shipyard.

Ten thousand people who lived in Bayview Hunters Point worked at the Shipyard. When it closed, 10,000 jobs were lost that have never been replaced.

Our people made a good living from the Shipyard. And many of our people died from the Shipyard. They gave their lives just as if they had died in battle. The U.S. Navy made their workplace one of the most polluted, poisoned places in the country. And now, federal law gives us the right to clean it up, restore it and develop it for our benefit.

The Hunters Point Shipyard is our front yard. Let’s act like we own it!

When it’s clean, it will once again be the economic engine of Bayview Hunters Point and a cultural and commercial mecca – if we control its destiny. The land our elders died for is the legacy we must seize and pass on to our children.

Willa Sims is a highly respected and revered community elder who for years, as a member of the Hunters Point Shipyard Citizens Advisory Committee, has been trying to assert the community’s right to determine the Shipyard’s destiny. She told me she’ll be there when the Redevelopment Commission meets in the Alex Pitcher Community Room at the Southeast Campus tomorrow.

“I am going to stand up even if no one else does,” she said. I don’t want my children and grandchildren asking, ‘What did you do to us by giving away the Shipyard?’”

She said supporting Lennar is the same as giving away the Shipyard, when it belongs to us and to our heirs. She thinks that some members of the CAC and the community were tempted to support Lennar only through political or financial pressure.

No one in the community could support Lennar based on its Preliminary Development Concept, she said, because there’s nothing in the proposal to ensure community ownership or control of any kind. She doesn’t want the CAC to make another move until it can hire an attorney to research and protect the community’s interests.

“Some people are in a hurry to give the Shipyard to Lennar,” she said, “because they think that will mean jobs for the community.” We talked about what we’ve learned from all the years that cleanup has been underway already, yet the jobs never go to people in the community: We know now that we won’t get the jobs until we’re in control.

“What’s the rush,” Ms. Sims said. “The Shipyard should be thoroughly cleaned before it’s developed. And we should do it, both the cleanup and the development.”

We talked about the need to train our own young people, because we’re the ones who want to see them succeed. We agree that neither the Navy nor the City nor Lennar has shown any interest in seeing our young people succeed.

“This is where we make our stand,” Ms. Sims told me. “The Shipyard is our last chance.”

Within the Black community is all the talent we could ever need to clean, restore and develop the Shipyard. Some of the nation’s top Black architects, engineers, planners, construction managers and contractors live and work right here. And many of us have long successful track records running large projects and employing and training our people as well.

Can we win the battle for ownership and control of the Shipyard? Yes we can! We have the legal right, we have the talent and proven ability, and we have the power.

Lennar is no tougher an adversary than SF Energy, the company created by the multinational that planned to build another polluting power plant in Bayview Hunters Point. Like Lennar, it tried to confuse, corrupt and divide the community. That multinational had invaded communities all over the world, and we were the first to stop them.

I think the City is the real culprit this time, but by proposing to give away our Shipyard, they’ve united and galvanized the community as never before. Remembering how the City excluded us from building and owning the Fillmore Center, building the new Main Library and restoring City Hall, and expanding the Airport, we will make our stand in our own front yard, to save our Shipyard for our community and for our children and their children.