The $145,000 Question

What has Roger Rojas built in the back yard of his house in Morningside, and why can't the city seem to find out?

Twice last year a city team attempted to reinspect the property. That squad, led by Ana Gelabert-Sanchez, administrator of the Upper Eastside Neighborhood Enhancement Team office, failed to make much headway: Rojas didn't answer the door when they came calling, despite the fact that Gelabert-Sanchez had sent letters confirming the times and dates. On one of the visits, though, the NET administrator did manage a peek into Rojas's yard. "The condition of this part of the house was deplorable," she wrote in her subsequent report. "I believe it is a health hazard as well as being unsafe. A complete inspection was not able to be done because of the inability to get in and inspect the entire premises."

In January Gelabert-Sanchez aimed a big gun: She filed for an administrative inspection warrant. If a judge issues the warrant, the NET office administrator will be able to enter the property with or without Rojas's permission, in order to determine whether any structures pose an imminent health and safety hazard, which would make them subject to condemnation. Assistant City Manager Carlos Smith says the City Attorney's Office is working on Gelabert-Sanchez's request.

Though he ignored Gelabert-Sanchez's communiques, the besieged resident did express his opinions in three letters of his own, preserved for posterity in the NET administrator's file. The timing of the inspections could not be worse, Rojas informed Gelabert-Sanchez. Citing his son's drug addiction and his sister's terminal cancer as just two of the myriad reasons he would be unable to make time for official visits, Rojas went on to assert that he had been a member of the Cuban army before the revolution and that he later provided intelligence to the CIA and the FBI. "I have worked with [U.S.] agencies against drugs and crimes more than the entire [neighborhood of] Morningside," he wrote. "They don't know this. I never talk to anyone here. They hate Cubans and blacks. Just ask Mr. T. Ferguson."

T. Ferguson is the Reverend Thomas Ferguson, associate pastor of Canaan Missionary Baptist Church and past president of the Greater Biscayne Boulevard Chamber of Commerce. "I'm sure that I don't understand what Mr. Rojas is talking about," says Ferguson, who lives in a spacious two-story stucco house on the east side of NE Sixth Court, across from Rojas. "People here in Morningside have welcomed me and my German wife with open arms and we have done the same. There's absolutely no discrimination here against blacks, Jews, or Hispanics. We are all working together to build bridges and tear down walls."

Not Roger Rojas's walls, however, at least not yet. And certainly not the barriers between Rojas and his neighbors, which promise to become more impenetrable. "I know there are problems, but I don't want to get involved," says a man who lives in one of those houses and declines to be named in print. "I don't want any trouble with Rojas. He's very different from the rest of us, and you never know what can happen.

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