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8/28/03 - Miami Today News
Miami downgrades plans for 60-acre park in Little Haiti to two soccer fields
By Susan Stabley
Plans for a 60-acre park in Miami's Little Haiti neighborhood have been scaled down to about 12 acres of soccer fields.
"The reality today is the City of Miami does not have the money to do 60 acres," Linda Haskins, the city's chief financial officer, said Thursday.
With $25 million available, the city's new plan is to build soccer fields and improve the area around Caribbean Marketplace at Northeast Second Avenue and 59th Terrace.
A contract will be presented to city commissioners in September to buy Keystone Trailer Court, 6307 NE Second Ave., Ms. Haskins said. The city plans to replace the mobile-home park with two soccer fields, a training field and other amenities, she said. Other funds will be used to spruce up the area, adding parking to Caribbean Marketplace and paying nearby businesses for alterations that would create a distinctive look. Also, the city plans a community center and a library branch.
The area will not be rezoned to drive out industry to make way for a park, said planning and zoning director Ana Gelabert-Sanchez.
City Commissioner Arthur Teele Jr., an outspoken supporter of a park for Little Haiti, could not be reached for comment.
Details of the scaled-down project were discussed Thursday at City Hall during a meeting of Little Haiti business and property owners, park proponents and city officials. It was organized by the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce.
The meeting grew heated at times. City Manager/Chief Administrator Joe Arriola, who arrived late, said he was "fed up" with discussing the proposed Little Haiti park. He said park opponents wanted to prevent improvement to the area and asked, "What has the Chamber done for the City of Miami?"
"I'm up to here with this (expletive)," he said. "This has already been decided. It's over."
Mr. Arriola later said an aide suggested that he apologize for his profanity-laced outburst. "Those who know me know I don't have any manners," he said.
Mr. Arriola told business and property owners that their properties would not be affected. He told one owner who was told by the city that it wanted to buy her land that "we don't want it anymore."
As many as 262 residents and at least 112 businesses were at risk of losing their land to the proposed park, according to a survey by Post Buckley Schuh & Jernigan.
Financing for the park was approved Nov. 13, 2001, as part of a $255 million bond to enhance neighborhoods and improve safety. Most of it, $127 million, was targeted for 11 parks and recreation projects.
Peter Ehrlich of the Lemon City Taxpayers Association, who owns properties that were threatened by plans for the park, said last week that he's satisfied with the downgrade in plans.
At the end of the meeting, Mr. Arriola told him, "When I raise your tax base, don't you (complain) about it. You asked for it."