Downtown Authority Sets Zones For Proposed Panhandling Ban
Written by Miami Today on November 22, 2007
After discussing the matter since April, directors of Miami’s Downtown Development Authority finally agreed last week on boundaries for a proposed anti-panhandling zone.
The zone, in which neither aggressive nor passive panhandling would be permitted, encompasses a parcel from Northwest First Avenue on the west to Biscayne Boulevard on the east, and with north and south First Streets as the north and south boundaries. In addition, the zone includes South Miami Avenue from downtown to Southeast 10th Street, Brickell Avenue from the Miami River to Southeast Eighth Street, Biscayne Boulevard from Southeast First to Northeast Ninth streets, and the blocks immediately surrounding the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts.
At last week’s meeting, additional territory was added — Northeast Third, Fourth and Fifth streets from Northeast Second Avenue to Biscayne Boulevard. Heeding an argument from new board member Jay Solowsky, the group agreed that panhandling is a threat to sports events patrons traveling from the Metrorail and Metromover to the AmericanAirlines Arena.
"There’s a tremendous panhandling problem between the College Park station and Biscayne Boulevard," Mr. Solowsky said. "They’re waiting for you to walk down those stairs."
"The arena brings more people downtown than anything else," said board member Neisen Kasdin.
"We need to get something out there that we can get passed," said board member Jose Goyanes, who brought aggressive panhandling to the downtown authority’s attention in the spring.
After exploring legislative avenues to curb aggressive panhandling in the central business district, authority members settled on restricting all panhandling in a limited area. The authority’s boundaries encompass 1.7 square miles, but it was felt that prohibiting panhandling throughout the district might be unconstitutional, because passive panhandling has First Amendment protection.
A similar ordinance has been enacted for a five-mile stretch of highway A1A along the beach in Fort Lauderdale, which has been defined as a tourist center that is crucial to the city’s economic welfare. That law has withstood legal challenges, said Veronica A. Xiques, a Miami assistant city attorney who researched the issue at the authority’s request.
To become law, the ordinance needs approval of the Miami City Commission, which could take several months. If the ordinance is enacted, a convicted panhandler could be fined up to $500 or be required to do up to 60 days of community service.
Since spring, Mr. Goyanes has said that patrons at his downtown restaurant, La Loggia, had been accosted, and that too-enthusiastic, even threatening, pitches for money on the street had become a problem all over downtown. Miami’s current laws against aggressive panhandling are not being enforced, he said.