Miami Dade County Community Forum

Friday, December 31, 2010

Lets guarantee the Historical Preservation of Hialeah Park. By Milly Herrera

If John Brunetti and the city of Hialeah are allowed to proceed with plans to mass develop Hialeah Park, putting hotel towers for close to 900 rooms, parking garages, a shopping mall (which would even allow supermarkets) inside Hialeah park, they are going to destroy this beautiful piece of land and divert business from other sectors of our city. There is little creativity for sustainable, on-going projects and events using the existing structures and land to provide a variety of different venues throughout the year that would guarantee Hialeah's financial stability; this is simply not on the agenda because the goal of these men is development of this land for their financial gain.

I hope people could know what is really happening - a few rich guys trying to get richer, taking away this "public land," a case of probable public corruption, and, ultimately, the destruction of Hialeah Park. Brunetti lost the license to race years prior to the end of his lease contract, which gave Hialeah first option to re-purchase the land, the transfer of land to Brunetti did not go through a voter referendum as outlined in the contract, and a political contributor to Julio Robaina's 2005 mayoral race was the one hired to demolish the historic stables. There have also been multiple and different attempts to develop the land in the last few years.

The Miami Herald should do an in-depth investigation and report the other side of this story to help inform the public.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

National Park Service has made a bad decision. By Matt Schwartz

This past Thanksgiving, south Floridians reading their morning paper were greeted by a story in the Sun Sentinel.

The article reported a decision by the National Park Service (NPS) to permit motorized recreation on 146,000 acres of what is likely the most pristine wildlife habitat remaining in south Florida. The NPS plan will create a 130 mile network of primary off-road vehicle (ORV) trails in the Big Cypress National Preserve Addition Lands. Two parking lots, a still to be determined number of secondary trails, and a campground will also be constructed to accommodate the influx of new motorized visitors. The complete NPS decision can be downloaded at the preserve's website here.

South Florida Wildlands Association, along with numerous local, state, and national organizations, is deeply opposed to this decision.


The Addition Lands are a national treasure. Added to the 582,000 acres of the original preserve by The Big Cypress National Preserve Addition Act of 1988, the Senate report accompanying this legislation referred to the Addition as "one of the few remaining large parcels of pristine land left in Florida" and noted "its environmental importance and beauty is unquestioned." On the House side, the Addition was referred to as an area of "unique wild beauty," and as "habitat for a wide variety of plants and animals, including the Florida panther, the bald eagle, native orchids and many other species."

This finding is no surprise to the many who regularly visit the Addition on foot. They come to experience south Florida as it existed long before our region became home to 6 million residents and a vacation destination for many millions more. Bird and animal watchers, hikers, nature photographers, native plant enthusiasts and even amateur astronomers all enjoy the tranquil beauty of a piece of land that is also habitat for 31 listed animals (endangered, threatened, or species of special concern) as well as hundreds of native plants (96 of which are listed by the State of Florida as threatened or endangered). See this story from the Miami Herald for an idea of what a 'swampwalk' in the Addition Lands is like.


In their own discussion of the ecological impacts expected from their decision, the NPS provides the following summary:

"The key impacts of implementing the preferred alternative would include moderate, long-term, adverse, and mostly localized impacts on surface water flow; long-term, moderate, adverse and potentially Addition-wide impacts on exotic/nonnative plants; long-term, moderate, adverse and mostly localized impacts on (likely to adversely affect) the Florida panther; long term, minor to moderate, adverse and mostly localized impacts on (likely to adversely affect) the red-cockaded woodpecker; long-term, minor to moderate, adverse and mostly localized impacts on major game species."

See photo for a look at what ORV impacts in the Big Cypress look like on the ground.

This photo was taken just before NPS opened an area of the preserve (eastern Bear Island - adjacent to the Addition Lands) to public motorized recreation. After claiming this trail could sustain motor vehicle use, NPS was forced to close it after less than one season of use due to excessive damage to soils and vegetation.

To say the least, this is a strange decision on the part of folks who are supposed to be stewards of one of America's most unique places. Every single piece of legislation, regulation and guidance dealing with the management of National Park Service units, from the Organic Act of 1916 to the 2006 NPS Management Policies, stresses the need to put natural resource protection before recreation. As summed up by former Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne in 2006:

"When there is a conflict between conserving resources unimpaired for future generations and the use of those resources, conservation will be predominant," Kempthorne said. "That is the heart of these policies and the lifeblood of our Nation's commitment to care for these special places and provide for their enjoyment."

What is also strange about this decision is the number of people it will actually benefit. Of the 65,000 registered off-road vehicles in south Florida (nearly 250,000 in the state according the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles) NPS intends to cap the number of off-road vehicle permits for the Addition at 650 (the vast majority of the original preserve is already open to motor vehicles and has an annual cap of 2000 permits). In other words, a still largely pristine resource owned by over 300 million Americans is about to be seriously degraded by the NPS for the recreation and enjoyment of far less than 1 percent of Florida's off-road vehicle community. Millions of dollars will be spent on parking lots, trail construction, stabilization, signage, security, law enforcement, maintenance, and (eventually) restoration, for a fragile piece of land that is unsuitable in every way for what the NPS itself refers to as a 'high impact recreational activity'.

A few words about the effects this decision is likely to have on the Florida panther. This year marks a new record in panther mortality with 23 deaths recorded by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission - 16 by vehicle collision (four in December alone), 6 by 'intraspecific aggression' (fights to the death between panthers over dwindling territory and food supply), and one from unknown causes. Of the estimated 80 to 100 panthers which still manage to survive in south Florida, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has identified 29 radio collared panthers known to be using the Addition Lands and closely surrounding areas. A number of uncollared panthers are also known to be present.

In their plan for the Addition, NPS draws on established panther science and accurately describes the panther's needs as follows:

"In general, panther population centers appear to indicate a preference toward large, remote tracts with adequate prey, cover, and reduced levels of human disturbance." They add that the "survival and recovery of the Florida panther is dependent and enhancement of the extant population, associated habitats, and prey resources" and recommend the reduction of "hunting pressure on panther prey species, especially deer and hogs" and the regulation of "ORV use and other human activities more closely because of potential disturbance to panther habitat".

Unfortunately, the plan being put forward by the NPS goes in a completely different direction from what their own science recommends. It fragments panther habitat, makes it less remote, removes large amounts of prey, reduces cover, and greatly increases levels of human disturbance. In short, it is the exact opposite of the type of management which should occur in one of the Florida panther's last holdouts.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the lead agency for protection of the panther, has also weighed in on this plan - and unfortunately have given it their qualified support. In their Biological Opinion, the FWS opinion discounts three previous scientific studies referenced in their own "Panther Recovery Plan" which found decreases in use of habitat by panthers during periods of heightened ORV activity. The full recovery plan is here.

Going back decades, the local office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has a near perfect record of approving well over a hundred new residential and commercial developments in panther habitat. Having decided this year not to grant the panther critical habitat protection (the panther itself is protected - it's habit much less so), their response to opening up the Addition Lands to motorized hunting follows the same familiar pattern of concern followed by ultimate approval:

" is the Service's biological opinion that implementation of the PA (NPS's preferred alternative) for the Addition Lands, as proposed, is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the Florida panther. No critical habitat has been designated for this species; therefore, none will be affected."

With FWS acknowledging that nearly one percent of the panther's remaining habitat is lost each year to development, the long term outlook for Florida's state animal and the only big cat in the eastern United States is not good. A video produced by a colleague several years ago explains the plight of the panther on private lands outside the preserve (and demonstrates why protected public lands and critical habitat designation are so important):

And this photo essay of southwest Florida (a bird's eye view of what all this permitted development in panther habitat actually looks like) simply has to be seen to be believed:

It should also be noted that while the Addition is bordered to the south and west by the original preserve, it is also bordered to the north by the Seminole and to the east by the Miccosukee tribal lands. Both tribes are deeply opposed to an NPS plan that will bring motorized recreation to their borders. Their concerns include the likelihood of increased incursions and game poaching on tribal lands; disturbance to native American archaeological sites as well as ceremonial sites currently in use in the Addition; spread of invasive plant species on tribal lands; negative impacts to major game species with potentially severe consequences for the panther; and disruption of wildlife migrations between tribal lands and the Addition.

Another group opposing this plan is the Florida Trail Association. They are being removed from a major section of their 1,000 mile trail between Big Cypress and Gulf Islands National Seashore, in use by hikers for at least 30 years, to make way for the new off-road vehicle routes. Even the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has urged that NPS change course and select a plan (Alternative F) which maximizes federal wilderness in the Addition and allows no use of recreational motor vehicles. The EPA's question to the NPS and FWS on how the removal of prey for the Florida panther will impact the species' survival continues to go unanswered.

Apologies for a long email - obviously this is a complex topic. Hopefully the holidays will give you a chance to catch up on some reading. If you've made it this far, please take a moment to send National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis a message. Advise him not to sign this decision on January 4th (the date currently scheduled for formal approval). Instead, ask him to choose a different course of action (Alternative F) which protects a unique and rare wilderness area for people and wildlife, creates maximum federal wilderness in the Addition, and is consistent with the true spirit of the National Park Service. As stated in the Organic Act of 1916, the mission of the National Park Service is:

"to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations."

Director Jarvis can be contacted at:

While South Florida Wildlands Association is a new Florida 501(c)3 non-profit (April, 2010), our work on this issue goes back years.

If you have the ability to do so, any financial help you can offer to this effort is greatly appreciated and will help South Florida Wildlands Association protect wildlife habitat in Big Cypress and throughout the greater Everglades. This battle will not be an easy one, but protection of what's worth protecting seldom is. Contributions in any amount can be made by check and mailed to:

South Florida Wildlands Association
P.O. Box 30211
Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33301

Best wishes for the holidays and the New Year. Feel free to call or email with any questions or comments. And feel free to pass this email on to others you believe would be interested.

Matt Schwartz
Executive Director
South Florida Wildlands Association

Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Holidays. By Fran Bohnsack

On behalf of the Board of Directors and Members of the Urban Environment League, we wish you a very happy holiday season!

We will return after January 1st.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Save the Date: UEL Bus Tour - February 4th

We are finalizing our bus tour but we thought you might want a glimpse at what we are planning so far!

Entry in the prestigious Rubell Gallery, lunch at a trendy Wynwood restaurant, a visit to a farm in Little Haiti. Yes! A farm. A tour of the Zyscovich designed Little Haiti Cultural Center. There will be more galleries/wall murals in Wynwood to satisfy art lovers and other stops for those curious to learn about and see more of the MIMO district and the upper East Side in the City of Miami.

Contact us if you want the invite the first week of

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Celebrating the Life of Emilie Young

It is with great sadness that we announce that Ms. Emilie Young, an Urban Environment League Board Member, passed away this past weekend in South Miami hospital after a brave battle with cancer. As many of you know, Ms. Young was the director of Miami Dade County's Environmentally Endangered Land Program from its creation in 1990 to her retirement in 2008. Ms. Young made an enormous impact on the local environment, and left as her legacy, thousands of acres of protected natural areas. She oversaw the acquisition and maintenance of nearly 18,000 acres of land that celebrate the natural heritage of South Florida. The areas of rockridge pineland, tropical hardwood hammock, freshwater and coastal wetlands that she acquired will forever remind us of her love of the natural world, her commitment to the future of this county, and her incredible skill at negotiating a good deal for the County taxpayers.

Memorial services for Emilie Young will be held at 11:00 A.M. on Wed, Dec. 22, 2010 at St Matthew the Apostle Episcopal Church, 7410 Sunset Drive, Miami, Florida. An additional event, celebrating Emilie’s Life, is being planned for a weekend sometime in the spring at either Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens or the Charles Deering Estate; details will be provided as they become available. Donations in Emilie's name can be made to Free to Breathe (

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Siffin Proposed Dual Mega-Media Towers by Beatriz Baldanrice

The examples Siffin’s use to justify his sign, well not really himself, he speaks thru others, his willing “supporters”, like Times Square, London, Tokyo, etc; none of these places as well as many other major cities have the intrusive impact that his project has.

In Time’s Square for example the signage is confined in an area that goes from 42nd St to 45th St flanked by 7th Ave on the west and Broadway Ave on the East. With the renovation of 42nd St., the signage has extended along 42nd Avenue between 7th and 8th Avenues. In either case no sign is above any building height.

On the other streets surrounding this area the only other signs are the theater and hotel marquees. And on Broadway Ave as well as 7th Avenue beyond 42ns ST South and 45th St North there are no more illuminated signs. It can be seen in the photos that beyond these limits are dark.

Times Square facing south

Times Square facing north

Tokyo, Same thing happens; the illuminated signage is restricted to a restricted commercial area, and never going above existing structures.

London, Piccadilly Circus-The illuminated signage is restricted to the Piccadilly Circus surrounding buildings and not to all of the building, because no signage is allowed on buildings of historical significance.

Paris at dawn, no visible signage and the tallest structure still is the Eifel Tower

I can go on and on, no mayor cities on the world have the signage Siffin has proposed to do. All these places have their own character and history like we do, Miami is a great place, we have our own character, and we do not need, in my opinion an oversize advertising icon to pollute our city. Miami is not Las Vegas.

And just as a comparison, the Washington Monument with 555 feet high, it is about the same height, once these LED intermittent light structures are in place. These full blast illuminated structures three times and twice wide each than the Washington Monument, is what we will see in the night Miami Skyline if this project gets build.

Flatrion Building, NY, at 287 Feet height is roughly 100 feet shorter than the proposed signs. Now, imagine this full blast and with intermittent lights all night.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Listen305 Radio Show Tonight at 7 pm!

Miami From A Distance

Curtis, Jo Ellen and Rob are from here, but they left Miami for greener pastures. Jonathan grew up in New York City, and used to visit his grandparents on Miami Beach. Cari's dad abandoned her mom—and her—for the party life in the 305. Franca visited Miami from Germany once with her mother—fulfilling her mom's dream of traveling to Miami before she died.

What does Miami mean to folks who see it from a distance? We'll find out Monday when we call out to people around the globe. And we'll hear from our Farmers' Market reporter Kristin Jayd, who'll join us live from the inaugural Homestead Farmers' Market on Krome Avenue by the Seminole Theater.

Join us for Listen305 Monday and add your voice to the conversation by calling 305 541-2350, or by tweeting @Listen305. Or leave your comments or questions now, at

There are THREE WAYS to listen to Listen305:

1. Listen Live to Listen305 Monday night at 7, on The Biz 880 AM Radio.
2. Stream the show live at, at 7 on Monday.
3. Listen to the podcast recording the day after at You can even listen now to last week's show, at the same site:

Friday, December 10, 2010

News on the Miami River: District Court Affirms "Working River" Opinions

After nearly seven years of litigation brought by the marine industry and neighbors together against the City and developers over three high-rise condominium developments on the Miami River, today the District Court affirmed its earlier opinions that the massive condominiums were approved in violation of the City’s comprehensive plan.

Plaintiffs the Miami River Marine Group, Captain Beau Payne, Ann Stetser and the Durham Park Neighborhood Association retained attorney Andrew Dickman in 2004 when the City approved developments “Hurricane Cove,” Coastal of the River,” and “Brisas Del Rio” in the vicinity of the 22nd Ave Bridge. All together, these project would have changed 25 acres of prime marine industrial property to high-rise residential. After disappointing losses at the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings, the plaintiffs and attorney Andrew Dickman appealed to the Third District Court of Appeal. The District Court, in 2007, struck down the approved projects but the developers quickly motioned the District Court for a rehearing. The opinions rendered today deny the developers’ motions.

The three opinions, collectively 302 pages, including dissents, buttress a recent settlement arising from litigation between the Florida Department of Community Affairs and the Miami River Marine Group against the City. The City, under its prior leadership, had attempted to re-write its comprehensive plan to downgrade the Miami River working waterfront by encouraging more residential development that would displace marine uses. The settlement approved by Mayor Regalado and the new City Commission emphasizes preservation of working waterfront properties, promoting the Port of Miami River to expand the City’s employment base, and progressive collaboration among all the Miami River stakeholders, marine and non-marine alike.

The opinions and the settlement now position the Miami River as a world class destination for shallow draft shipping, mega yacht repairs, local marinas, and the host of related businesses that support a working waterfront of this caliber.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Recall of County Commissioner Natacha Seijas

A group called Miami Voice has delivered petitions to The County Clerk, Harvey Ruvin, asking for a recall of County Commissioner Natacha Seijas from District 13 (Miami Lakes and Hialeah).

Ruvin's office will verify the signatures to determine if the PAC, Miami Voice, has met the threshold of 3,591 (4% of the registered voters in the district). Norman Braman has admitted that he gave $5,000 to the PAC but he is not connected with the effort.

Besides her role as County Commissioner, Ms. Seijas is head of the Office of Economic Development and International Trade. OEDIT is the Miami-Dade County government agency that recommends to the Mayor and Board of County Commissioners the County’s economic development and international trade policies.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Launch of Catalyst Miami is December 9th

Catalyst Miami Launch
6-9pm on Thursday, December 9
800 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach
Food and Catalini Cocktails will be served

Human Services Coalition Launches new capacity building initiative for non-profits: Catalyst Miami.

The Human Services Coalition (HSC) will officially announce the organization’s new name and a new model for social change: Catalyst Miami. For the past 15 years, this Miami-based non-profit has promoted civic engagement, economic prosperity, and increased access to healthcare for Miami-Dade residents.

HSC accomplishments include founding the Prosperity Campaign, now a statewide effort to link eligible residents in need of economic stability with financial services and healthcare programs that has tapped into more than $100 million in federal funding set aside for Florida; establishing the Civic Life Academy, training more than 500 residents to be advocates for their communities at every level of government; and coordinating the Pennywise Campaign, which this year successfully convinced Miami-Dade County government to preserve funding for social services in the current budget by rolling back the property tax rate to prior levels.

Catalyst Miami recognizes the role of the Human Services Coalition as a catalyst for social change, helping diverse individuals and organizations work together to improve health, education, and economic opportunity in all our communities.

The new name also reflects a new model for social change:

1. Catalyst Miami prepares individuals to serve as community leaders.
2. Catalyst Miami builds stronger organizations through capacity building: incubating new nonprofits; helping established nonprofits innovate; and brokering shared services (from accounting to marketing to IT) that allow nonprofits to focus on their mission.
3. Catalyst Miami provides structures and practices that that make it possible for diverse partners to work together, from grassroots organizers and fellow nonprofits to major foundations, schools, hospitals, and financial institutions.

The launch party for Catalyst Miami, held at ArtCenter/South Florida on Lincoln Road, celebrates HSC’s 15 years of social change by awarding the first annual Catalyst Awards to community leaders in children’s well-being (David Lawrence, The Children’s Trust); civic engagement (Cesar Conde, Univision); economic prosperity (Eduardo Padron, Miami Dade College); education (Isaac Prilletensky, University of Miami); and healthcare (Jacqui Colyer, Department of Children and Families).

The Catalyst Miami launch also recognizes HSC as an innovator by introducing to Miami the BeeTagg, a new communications technology that delivers online messages to smart phone users who swipe a special bar code. Guests at the launch will test this new technology by swiping BeeTaggs that will direct their phones to messages about HSC history and Catalyst Miami’s future.

To help guests grasp the concept of Catalyst Miami, the launch party will feature a collaborative art installation where each guest will add a “particle” to a molecular model that represents coming together for social change. For more information about Catalyst Miami, please visit their website.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Miami Art Museum (MAM) Broke Ground in Bicentennial Park

Andres Viglucci wrote in the Miami Herald that the Miami Art Museum held a ceremonial ground-breaking on their $200,000,000 Herzog & DeMeuron structure on Tuesday. The actual dirt movement will be on or around December 15th. Viglucci says:

If it happens as scheduled, that initial phase would mark a consequential milestone in plans to transform the barely used park into a cultural centerpiece for downtown Miami -- a strategy that has been dogged by some degree of controversy and doubts over its feasibility.

The Urban Environment League has been divided on the use of Bicentennial Park to house museums. As the article states:

But the plan has come under criticism from parks activists who say the buildings would eat up too much open space, while some prominent art-world figures question whether MAM, with a relatively small collection of contemporary art and a low profile, merits a $200 million, taxpayer-financed building. Others have questioned whether the art and science museums can meet ambitious private fundraising goals for construction and subsequent operation of the large, complex new buildings, especially amid the economic collapse of the past couple of years.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Don't Miss Art Basel on Miami Beach - Today through Sunday

The Art Basel website says:

Art Basel Miami Beach is the most important art show in the United States, a cultural and social highlight for the Americas. As the sister event of Switzerland's Art Basel, the most prestigious art show worldwide for the past 41 years....

We are lucky to have a show of this caliber in Miami. It is open from noon till 8 pm. On Sunday the show is over at 6 pm.

(pictured below: Adel Abdessemed's 'Mappemonde,')