Miami Bans Cars From Wynwood's Main Drag During Art Basel Over Terror Concerns

Miami Bans Cars From Wynwood's Main Drag During Art Basel Over Terror Concerns
Photo by Michele Eve Sandberg
With slightly more than two weeks to go before massive international crowds wash over Wynwood for Art Basel, Miami officials are quietly finalizing a plan to shut down the neighborhood's main street — NW Second Avenue — to vehicular traffic Friday, December 8, through Sunday, December 10.

The city plans to shut the avenue from NW 22nd to NW 29th Streets to protect pedestrians from vehicular attacks during Miami's highest-profile yearly event, says Manny Gonzalez, executive director of the Wynwood Business Improvement District (BID).

"They want to be ultracautious because of the magnitude of people coming here," Gonzalez says, confirming a report in Miami Today. "It’s preventive security, proactiveness."

The looming shutdown raises two obvious questions: Is there a credible terror threat that Basel patrons should worry about? And after similar precautions were taken earlier this year on Lincoln Road in Miami Beach, is this the new normal for high-traffic events in town?
Albert Guerra, commander of City of Miami Police's Wynwood unit, did not immediately respond to a message from New Times, but he told Miami Today that the Miami Police Department decided to shut down the street after speaking with officials from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. He also said he'd been monitoring talk on social media, but did not say whether anyone had threatened to run over Basel pedestrians.

"It’s way too dangerous” to leave NW Second Avenue open, he told Miami Today. “We’re not going to risk that. It would be ignorant for us not to think we’re a prime target. Wynwood is the place to be, and this is an international event.”

Guerra added that a possible terror attack would be more damaging to tourism in Wynwood than the Zika virus was during the summer of 2016. Streets were also closed in Wynwood this past Halloween in a process some local bar and store owners say was chaotically planned.

Nine days ago, the BID sent out an email notifying bar owners that the city was debating shutting streets for Basel. The BID held a meeting November 15 to discuss the idea.

"Please note that the Board will be discussing the possible closure of NW 2nd Avenue during this year’s Art Week (12/4 – 12/10)," the email read. "City of Miami Police and Miami Parking Authority representatives will be on hand to detail the possible road closure and answer any questions. The BID encourages interested Wynwood property owners and businesses to attend this meeting to stay informed."

Adam Gersten, owner of the Wynwood bar Gramps, said he understood the need to keep people safe from potential terror threats, but he questioned why the plan is still being finalized with only 16 days left before the Basel crowds arrive.

He said he'd like to see more cooperation between police and the BID to help bar and restaurant owners understand what streets will ultimately be shut down and how to receive shipments of food and supplies.

"We’re all caught off guard by the speed this is happening," Gersten said. "I'm hoping there will be more of a fleshed-out discussion so businesses can function and service customers. Because if there's no food to sell, no drinks to sell, what's the point of even doing this?"

Editor's Note: After publication, the headline of this story was changed to clarify there are no imminent terror threats, only general concerns.
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Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.