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December 10, 2000,

Wynwood Community Economic Development Corp. Files Federal Lawsuit Against City of Miami For Discrimination and Retaliation

MIAMI, FL - Today, the Wynwood Community Economic Development Corporation (WCEDC) filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the City of Miami claiming that the City discriminated against WCEDC in violation of federal civil rights laws. WCEDC's complaint alleges that the City has engaged in a long history of persistent and unrelenting discrimination against WCEDC because of its status as a Puerto Rican organization.

WCEDC is a predominantly Puerto Rican, non-profit, community economic development corporation that owns a foreign trade permit in the City of Miami. WCEDC has been trying for more than ten years to establish and operate a foreign trade zone in, and to benefit, the community. The City has fought it every step of the way. First, as the current complaint alleges, the City attempted to illegally take control of the project. When that proved unsuccessful, the City systematically worked to undermine the project, which it has continued to the present. Through this lawsuit, WCEDC is attempting to move this project forward by, among other things, seeking an injunction to prohibit the City from continuing its discrimination and from taking any further retaliatory action.

"I cannot believe that the City of Miami has continued to impede this project when the project would clearly provide a benefit to the entire City by generating tax revenue and creating more jobs," said William Rios, Executive Director of WCEDC. He expressed great frustration at the actions of the City, adding, "The City has left WCEDC with no choice but to file suit against it because it continues to treat us differently than other community organizations." According to Rios, "The City has even pressured others to withhold funding and assistance to WCEDC, which has made it imperative that WCEDC take action against the City now."

This is the second lawsuit that has been filed by WCEDC against the City of Miami. The first lawsuit, which was filed in 1994, was settled in 1995. Around the same time, WCEDC also filed a complaint against the City with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which was also settled in 1995. As described in the federal lawsuit filed today, the City has breached most of the provisions of both of those settlement agreements, which led to WCEDC filing another complaint with HUD in 1999. HUD is currently investigating that complaint.

WCEDC is being represented in this lawsuit by the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a national civil rights law firm based in Washington, D.C., and Stephen M. Cody, a prominent civil rights attorney in the Miami area. The lawsuit, Wynwood Community Economic Development Corp., Inc. v. City of Miami, has been filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida.