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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Artists wanted for Gallery Showing

Nearly 15 years ago, Alex Lantsberg helped organize a powerful community-led campaign to close the Hunters Point Power Plant, which first opened in 1929.  Seven years later, he appealed Pacific Gas & Electric Company’s application to demolish the facility.  These powerful photos are the remains of that effort and represent a marker of the community effort to reclaim Bayview Hunters Point from its legacy of environmental racism and injustice.

Hunters Point Power Plant Demolition
Photo: Alex Lantsberg
Inside the Hunters Point Power Plant.
Photo: Alex Lantsberg

He is planning an opening reception on March 7, 2013 at the Bayview Opera House (4705 Third St) and is looking to include the work of other artists who focus on monumental architecture, adaptive reuse, and industrial detritus. Can you help?  If so, please contact Alex at lantsberg@gmail.com or 415.794.2539

Lantsberg writes,
I appealed the HPPP’s demolition because I envisioned a revitalized structure as a physical monument to the symbol of the Bayview Hunters Point community’s successful ongoing struggle against industrial pollution and disinvestment.  The HPPP’s closure marked just one of major victories in the mid-90’s community fight to stop the construction of the neighborhood’s third power plant, bring the issue of environmental justice to City Hall, and clean up the legacy of pollution that had accompanied decades of industrial use and ultimate abandonment. 
Adaptive reuse of 19th and early 20th century industrial structures had long been recognized as a way to successfully build upon a neighborhood’s unique characteristics and the Steam Plant seemed like the perfect candidate for similar reuse.  The massive concrete and steel structure was among the last remnants of the heavy industrial uses in Bayview Hunters Point’s India Basin neighborhood. India Basin was one of the cradles of BVHP heavy industrial uses that were virtually completely eliminated during the redevelopment of the old Butchertown into what is now India Basin Industrial Park.  Preserving the original structure and adapting it for public use with a modern building inside the old plant would not only serve as a powerful testament to the community’s strength but also a catalyst for its revitalization.  
Unfortunately my vision was not to be. What I had underestimated in my effort was the depth of emotion that many of my neighbors, particularly elders, had for the plant.  On top of those still raw emotions, the plant’s demolition would also be a source of dozens of jobs for neighborhood residents. It became unsurprising that even long time friends and allies opposed my effort.
While I could not save the original Steam Plant structure, I was able to ensure that some of its history would be preserved.  As part of the settlement to withdraw the permit appeal, PG&E agreed to fund a complete historic write-up on the plant and document its demolition in photos.   This is the result.

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