City Swap For Brickell Avenue Gridlocked
By Meisha Perrin
Miami is close to a road swap with the Florida Department of Transportation to get ownership of Brickell Avenue, where residents and businesses have chaffed under state control.
But though commissioners didn’t act last week, comments revealed that getting Brickell by yielding downtown and Overtown roads to the state might not be the best option — especially not for Overtown’s commissioner, Michelle Spence-Jones, who hasn’t been part of negotiations.
Commissioners are to vote on the issue in June.
According to proposed legislation, the city and the state came to an agreement after a countywide transportation department assessment to trade Brickell from the south to Eighth Street for Southwest/Southeast First Street from Southwest Second Avenue to Biscayne Boulevard, Northwest/Northeast First Street from Biscayne Boulevard to Northwest Third Avenue, Northwest Third Avenue from West Flagler Street to the I-95 and Northwest Third Court from Northwest Eighth Street to West Flagler Street.
But some of those roadways lie in Ms. Spence-Jones’ district, and she said she isn’t willing to give them up until the department meets with her residents.
"While I understand how important it is for you to represent your constituents, which you should," she said to Chairman Marc Sarnoff, whose district encompasses Brickell, "it’s also important for me to represent mine."
And the department, she said, gets an F in Overtown.
It’s responsible for destroying a very prevalent African-American Community, she said, and displacing many people who lived there by building highways like I-95.
So while gaining possession of Brickell is a great thing and is good leverage to get things done, she said, "I’m very uncomfortable with giving up anything in Overtown in any way, until they handle what they promised they would handle."
According to Ms. Spence-Jones, the department has promised her district a lot of things that have yet to happen, including a sound barrier for neighborhoods near the highway. The city is also in a legal fight with the transportation department over a promised signature I-395 bridge, claiming a "bait and switch," according to back-up documents that say the department has promised one thing and is doing another with regard to reconstruction of the I-395 bridge, which department officials had promised would be a signature bridge for Miami.
That issue has yet to be resolved, Mr. Sarnoff said.
Still, he said, it’s been a very hard-fought negotiation with the transportation department to get ownership of Brickell Avenue, which he said the city already has been maintaining for years.
"We have been taking care of the sidewalks and the medians of Brickell for years and years and years," he said. "It predates all of us… And now we have the opportunity to own Brickell."
That, commissioners agreed, is a step in the right direction — especially, Mr. Sarnoff said, now that most of the roadwork there is just being completed.
"This is a very, very big piece for the City of Miami," he said, "to take ownership and control of its own Park Avenue." To read the entire issue of Miami Today online, subscribe to e-MIAMI TODAY, an exact digital replica of the printed edition.