Liberty City stalwart stalls big developers

Tyrone Greene leans on the glass counter in his family's shoe-repair shop, Greene Dreams, a one-room space crammed with Barack Obama T-shirts, Miami Heat jerseys, and dashikis. A mural just around the corner from NW Seventh Avenue and 62nd Street sums up Greene's place in Miami's largest African-American neighborhood: "Heart of Liberty City," the painting says, just above a blood-red heart. "We've been here 48 years," Greene says. "We've been through I don't know how many hurricanes, through the 1980 riots, through everything."

But now Greene claims the county is harassing him so he will leave and officials can move forward with a $54 million plan to tear down the whole block for a mixed-use development. There was a bogus code violation for a leaky roof, a questionable citation for lingering garbage, and even a refusal to cash his rent check.

Miami-Dade Commissioner Audrey Edmonson is the plan's prime mover. She refuses to promise his business a place in the new project, he contends. "Audrey Edmonson is not for the people in this community," Greene says. "I've never seen anything like what's happening to us."

Greene's father, Willie James Greene, opened the store in 1962. He stuck it out through poverty, natural disaster, and rampant crime. When thousands rioted after cops were cleared of fatally beating insurance salesman Arthur McDuffie in 1980, most of the block was destroyed. But Greene Dreams was untouched.

The project to overhaul the corner was proposed in 2004 as the $86 million Martin Luther King Transit Village. That plan stalled in 2007. Edmonson resurrected the idea last year, and the new "transit village" calls for 200-plus apartments, bus terminals, and storefronts.

By this past spring, the county had bought most of the properties on the block. Soon, Greene was fined for uncollected garbage — even though, he says, it was the county's job to pick it up. Then, in November, Greene found a citation taped to his front door ordering him to vacate within a week because of an "unsafe" leaky roof. He stayed.

The roof indeed leaks, Greene says, but the county owns the building. "They're the slumlord, and it's their responsibility to fix these problems," he says.

Also, Greene says, county officials tried to refuse his rent check for October until he resent it through an official courier.

Edmonson declined to comment about Greene's complaints.

Greene says he's willing to go along with the development — as long as he gets to have a place in it. "This neighborhood is finally improving, and now you're going to tell me I have to pack up and leave?" he says. "No way. We are not going away."

 
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