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12/13/02 - Daily Business Review.

Activists leading a recall effort against Miami City Commissioner Arthur Teele Jr. got a boost from a major South Florida developer, Martin Z. Margulies.

By: Alina Matas

Margulies, who is building the Bellini on the Ocean condo tower in Bal Harbour, has contributed $1,000 to the group.

"I don't really feel he's doing the district any good," Margulies said about his help to the recall organizers.

Teele didn't return a phone call seeking comment.

The developer crossed paths with Teele last year when he was seeking city approval for the Overtown Youth Center, which is in Teele's district. The center is now open in the northeast corner of Gibson Park, at Northwest Third Avenue and 14th Street.

"He wasn't cooperative, considering this is a vast improvement for the area," Margulies said.

Teele voted in favor of the $3 million youth center, which got built with a $2.5 million donation from Margulies, and with operation costs funded through charities run by Miami Heat star Alonzo Mourning.

But the developer hasn't forgotten the approval process. When the project was presented to commissioners last year, the vote got delayed twice at Teele's urging. A neighboring church pastor opposed the project, saying city leaders years before had promised him the property, a claim city officials never confirmed. Teele said the pastor had a right to be heard before commissioners voted. The pastor later withdrew his opposition.

The recall organizers say Teele hasn't delivered on his promises of economic revitalization for his district, which includes Overtown, Liberty City and Little Haiti. The group has completed the first step of the recall process by collecting about 2,500 signatures, or more than 5 percent of registered voters in Teele's district. The signatures have been submitted for validation to the county elections office.

Henry Crespo Sr., president of the Miami-Dade Democratic Black Caucus of Florida, and one of the organizers of the recall, said Margulies' $1,000 was one of heftiest contributions of the $5,000 or so the group has collected. And it didn't take any arm-twisting.

Crespo said the developer simply asked him how much he wanted. Crespo asked for $1,000. A few days later, a check arrived in the mail.

Said Crespo: "I should have asked for $5,000."