Stone Gets Spanked

"They were both tall and had great shoulders, and so does Fidel"

Politically connected megadeveloper Willy Bermello is erecting a 27-story condo tower literally around Cuartas's single-level house. The building, to be called Onyx, became a major problem for Cuartas this past summer when her then-tenants threatened to sue her over the danger posed by the work site. After they moved out, Cuartas moved in with her extended family and tried to get the situation under control. "I was going to fix it, I thought," she says.

After an independent engineer confirmed the "unsafe situation" in a report this past July, the developers agreed to halt work directly above the house and install safety-barrier netting for debris. They bought covers for the family's cars and offered to wash the weekly concrete buildup. But the safety netting wasn't large enough, leaving a frequently used outdoor staircase exposed. Cuartas claims the rain of debris has continued and she's found no help from federal, state, or local agencies.

"The contractor has assured the inspector that they will take all precaution necessary in order not to create a hazard for the neighbors," Hector Lima, director of Miami's building department, wrote in a recent e-mail to Cuartas. Ken Hawkins, a partner at Bermello Ajamil & Partners, referred questions to MK Contractors. Jody Ratner, MK's assistant project manager for Onyx, would say only that the company had "tried to accommodate all [of Cuartas's] wishes and demands," and that the project is "in full compliance and there are no violations." According to the city's building department, the site has no code violations.

Onyx has had its share of woe lately. A would-be sister building two blocks away, Onyx 2, was to have been the tallest residential building in Miami. The planned 50-story project, launched to celebrity fanfare (Tara Reid was there) this past July, went belly up before construction could begin.

Cuartas wasn't shedding any tears for the developers. "After 2 1/2 - 3 years of experience," she wrote in a recent e-mail, "I can say with conviction that the system is broken for its citizens and öfixed' for the powerful building industry." Rob Jordan


And Now for a Little Self-Congratulation
Filed under: News

This past week, New Times staffers picked up four awards from the Florida Society of Professional Journalists, for newspapers with a circulation of more than 100,000: Emily Witt won first place for general reporting for her story "Band of Outsiders"; Chuck Strouse won first place for serious column writing; Rob Jordan won second place for business reporting for his story "Deconstruction"; and Joanne Green won second place in investigative reporting for her story "Rough Love."

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