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The Little Blue Hoist That Couldn’t

Published on April 4th, 2020

Known as Regatta Park, it was Miami’s newest waterfront public space when it opened in September 2015, a much anticipated seven-acre park that was finally finished after years of delay.

Its centerpiece: a broad oval lawn and an adjacent tree-shaded grove that would serve as staging areas for the sailboat regattas — hence the park’s name — that the Coconut Grove waterfront famously hosts in wintertime.

The first event was in January 2016, US Sailing’s premier event, the Miami Olympic Classes Regatta, but the park had limitations, sharing a difficult launch ramp with community fishing and needed a hoist for keelboat events.

And when it appeared these issues were being address, the big reveal only revealed a government mess and a little blue hoist that couldn’t. Here’s an update from Nancy Lee in the Biscayne Times.

Spencer Crowley, our Florida Inland Navigation District (FIND) commissioner, always came to City of Miami ribbon cuttings with a blown-up check like Publisher’s Clearing House presented to jumping people on TV. Spencer’s check was in the amount the state was reimbursing the city in a matching grant. Lucky city, free money!

The ribbon cutting the City of Miami had in October for the million-dollar project in Regatta Park had no big check. In a major faux pas, someone neglected to invite the source of free money. An invitation had always been the practice, but not under this clueless administration.

Regatta Park hoist

The city also didn’t invite Pat Downey, executive director of the U.S. Sailing Center, nor was Harry Horgan of Shake-a-Leg invited.

Wendy Kamilar, head of the now-defunct City Waterfront Advisory Board (in existence for decades), was invited the night before and tried to contact as many people as she could.

Appointed public members of the Coconut Grove Waterfront Master Plan Implementation Committee for the project weren’t invited either.

The city’s director of the Office of Capital Improvements (OCI), Steven Williamson, was a hire of the city manager who has since quit. Good — he did away with so many public boards, he was a menace. Williamson is still in place.

He’s an obnoxious former military guy who still thinks he’s in the military and has no institutional knowledge of the city. It didn’t occur to him to find out all the players for so many years and invite them. But his bad etiquette is not my point.

The project called for a hoist to lift regatta boats from a trailer and place them in the bay. The spanking new blue hoist, with two booms, cost about $700,000. Problem: the hoist was installed too far from the water to drop the racing boats in, and it’s too short to lift boats off their trailers.

It was described as “a clusterf—k” by a member of the Implementation Committee. The blue hoist can’t do anything. Nothing has changed since its christening four months ago. The hoist is not used…it just looks useful.

Who was overseeing the project? Steven Williamson, who even denied the existence of the Implementation Committee, which had been meeting for eleven years, and called the chairman a liar (the committee was quickly dissolved by the city manager).

Before the manager dismantled it, the Implementation Committee had instructed the engineering firm T.Y. Lin, chosen to design the project, to view hoists at Coral Reef and the U.S. Sailing Center.

Pat Downey at the center told me he met with the engineer and talked about specs for the Regatta Park hoist. Regatta chair Mark Pincus confirmed he’d also talked to the engineer from T.Y. Lin and told him what was needed. Both Downey and Pincus showed him correctly designed hoists.

Pincus puts the blame squarely on the T.Y. Lin engineer, even though Harbor Construction did the building. I put the blame on the city department charged with the project, where the buck stops.

When I told Spencer Crowley about the hoist problems in October (he did not know), he contacted OCI. Crowley told me that OCI assured him the hoist can be fixed. Crowley got in touch with his city contacts again the end of January — still nothing.

I believe the arrogant Steven Williamson realized they’d lose the FIND grant, as they had a September deadline. Without the members of the public on the Waterfront Advisory Board and the Implementation Committee (both disbanded), no one was there to light a fire under his ass earlier. (The public was always on top of the projects they planned.)

A fierce building process was begun in August to get it done on time. A lot of overtime was involved. The project got done, and they did plan that hasty ribbon cutting.

I watched the transfer of boats to water at the first regatta this season. About 80 boats showed up from around the world. Regatta chair Pincus had to hire a crane for six days at more than $5000 to handle what the blue hoist was supposed to do.

He also got hit with $6000 in city permit fees. Even with sponsors and $60,000 in boat entry fees, he only just about broke even because of the unexpected crane rental.

Last I spoke with Pincus, he was dealing with a disconnect between city departments. At issue: Which department is in charge of the hoist? Parks didn’t want any part of it, and neither did Dinner Key Marina. I’ll happily fill the void. I play with it now, spinning the two booms back and forth. Of course, there would be my high fee for not very efficient work.

I’m wondering if I can also get the big check Spencer Crowley ceremoniously gives out from the FIND Commission. He must have it somewhere gathering dust.

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