‘Who can we sue’ over Brickell Bridge?
Written by Catherine Lackner on September 24, 2014
During last Friday’s rainy morning commute, drivers seethed in their cars as traffic ground to a halt. One of the causes, said Marc Sarnoff, Miami commissioner and chair of Miami’s Downtown Development Authority, was that the Brickell Avenue Bridge was open during rush hour.
“Who can we sue?” Mr. Sarnoff asked the group, not entirely in jest. “A study is not the proper thing to do.”
Years ago, the downtown authority hammered out an agreement for all bridges over the Miami River to remain in the down position during the work week between 7:30 and 9 a.m., noon to 1 p.m. and 4:30 to 6 p.m.
But the Brickell Avenue Bridge continues to open during those times, Mr. Sarnoff said, because the Miami River Commission and the US Coast Guard intervened so that commerce on the river would not be delayed. Boat captains who want the bridge opened have only to send a distress signal, he said. “So Joe’s Bike Shop, which goes directly to Haiti, gets through.”
Board member Richard Lydecker, who is senior partner in the Lydecker-Diaz law firm, suggested the authority sue whatever entity rules the bridge in administrative, state and federal court. “Then we lobby [US Sen.] Bill Nelson. Typically they’ll resolve it.” Government workers are chiefly interested in looking good to their superiors, he added.
“Or, if you want something cheaper, we could hire an 8-year-old kid to stand on the bridge with a broken bicycle,” he quipped.
The suit might be in vain, suggested board member Alvin West, who is senior vice president and chief financial officer of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, because, “The Coast Guard has complete authority over the waterway.”
“Their authority is long established,” said authority vice chair Neisen Kasdin, who is office managing shareholder at the Akerman law firm, “but I agree that it’s ridiculous that one boat gets through and the entire town is clogged. Let’s verify under what authority it’s done and what our opportunities are.”
“Are we going to hire a law firm?” asked board member Hank Klein, who is vice chairman of Blanca Commercial Real Estate.
“Yes,” Mr. Sarnoff replied, “the biggest and most expensive we can find.”
Jay Solowsky, the authority’s outside counsel, suggested the group get traffic counts to show the economic impact of the bridge closings.
“Other downtowns have rivers, and they don’t have these issues,” Mr. Kasdin said. He suggested the group find out how the other cities resolved the issues.
“The kid on the bicycle sounds better,” Mr. West quipped.
In the end, Mr. Lydecker agreed to tackle the matter pro bono and bring a report to the board within 30 days, focusing on what can be done to regulate not just the Brickell Avenue Bridge but all of the movable Miami River bridges downtown.