By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
Coastal Textiles and All Florida Paper requested the money for things such as paving parking lots, installing lawn irrigation systems, and painting façades. "The funds were available, we applied for them, and the reason we received them versus who didn't -- I don't want to get into that," comments Marisel. "That was not our decision."
The county also awarded $100,000 to the Dixie Plaza strip mall in North Miami for, among other things, renovation of interior space, including new lighting, floors, and air conditioning.
For Neighbors and Neighbors director Leroy Jones, the awarding of grant money for work inside a building adds insult to injury. According to county guidelines, the commercial-revitalization grants are available to business owners and merchants in middle- and low-income areas "to rehabilitate the exterior of their commercial buildings," not interiors.
Jones is even more vexed that de la Campa's staff and Miami officials failed to find a way to provide at least a portion of the $1.1 million to the Overtown grocers. "They done seen all these businesses. They been inside of 'em and outside. So they know who need it. They know," he fumes. "It's peanuts, what these people are asking for. Peanuts. It ain't nothin', man!" Jones also bristles at de la Campa's statement that the city did not back the projects. He submitted letters from Mayor Joe Carollo, commissioners Art Teele, Joe Sanchez, and Tomas Regalado, and City Manager Donald Warshaw, stating their commitment to finding matching funds for Jones's applicants. "We are making every effort to working [sic] with Mr. Jones to identify a source of funding that will support the participation of the thirteen City of Miami businesses in the commercial revitalization program," Warshaw wrote to de la Campa in June.
Next time the county should look more seriously at black-owned businesses in historic neighborhoods when distributing federal funds, Jones seethes. After all, he says, putting a twist on the lyrics Frank Sinatra immortalized singing about another city: "If you can make it in Overtown, you can make it anywhere." Then he adds: "If [city and county officials] really want to make a change, man, they'll come in here and do some things, man, because a community is only as good as its businesses. Any place you go in America, if the businesses are thriving, the community look good.... That's the truth! If the businesses ain't doing nothin', the community look like garbage."