For the past six months, West Coconut Grove residents have fought a developer's attempts to build a trolley garage in the historic black neighborhood. They sued to stop the construction, only for a judge to give it the go-ahead earlier this month.
Now, however, neighbors have another reason to complain about the garage. A 65-year-old woman who lives nearby claims she shattered her ankle in 14 places after stepping on a nail from the construction site.
"It was horrible, absolutely horrible," says Lynda Cook Lawrence. "I blame whoever was making the mess there, the developer who is building the trolley garage. There is no reason for it to be there."
"We cannot comment on a matter in which we are not involved and we do not believe that it is relevant to whether our project was properly permitted," said Mario Garcia-Serra, Counsel for The Astor Companies in a statement sent to Riptide.
Lawrence and her adult son, Tarek, say they stopped at a store next to the trolley garage on the 3300 block of Douglas Road in order to buy some dog food this April.
But when Lawrence stepped out of her car, she stepped onto a rusty nail from the garage's construction site.
"I heard what I thought was a tree branch break, but it turned out to be my ankle," she says.
As Lawrence crumpled in pain on the ground, a pair of cops arrived.
"I was trying to see what was the matter with me, trying to look at my leg, but the police kept saying: 'Lady, don't look,'" she says. "But I couldn't help but see that the only thing that was holding the bones together was my skin."
"I fainted when I saw that," Lawrence says. "My son turned collard green."
She was taken to Coral Gables Hospital where doctors diagnosed her with a spiral fracture: her ankle had shattered into 14 pieces.
"They had to push my ankle bone back in, pop it back in," she says. "Ugh, I think I'm going to be sick just thinking about it."
A couple of days later surgeons operated on her ankle. Then came six weeks in a rehab center. She is still going to physical therapy four months later. "I have a limp now," Lawrence says. "I just hope it's not permanent."
She says she wasn't initially involved in the fight against the trolley garage, but has entered the fray since her injury.
The Astor project has come under fire from locals, who say it is an industrial site in the middle of a residential neighborhood that isn't even served by the trolleys (they serve Coral Gables instead). In February, a group of West Coconut Grove residents sued to stop the garage construction. But on August 16, Judge Ronald Dresnick said he was powerless to stop the project. There is also a change.org petition protesting the garage.
"The Grove trolley building was designed and constructed in adherence with the City of Miami Zoning Code and it underwent a rigorous year long review process to ensure its compatibility with the nearby residential neighborhood," Astor's Garcia-Serra said in his statement. "The location of the development is along a major commercial corridor and the property is specifically zoned for auto-related commercial use. The trolley building received all necessary permits and approvals required for construction."
But Lawrence, like many locals, insist it's a bad idea.
"I wasn't concerned about the politics so much, but the whole neighborhood when they heard I got hurt were at my door saying: 'I knew it was going to happen,'" she says.
"There is no reason for them to build it there," Lawrence argues. "But to build it there and to not take precautions so that people didn't get injured because of their mess, that's unforgivable."
"There were nails and glass on my face as I was lying on the ground," Lawrence says of when she was injured. "The pain is still terrible."
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"A kid could have fallen on that mess," she says. "I'm just happy to have a foot."