While packing up to evacuate his South Beach condo this week, Daniel Ciraldo saw his neighbors at an eight-unit art deco building scramble to MacGyver last-minute hurricane fixes. With plywood long sold out, some taped their windows, while others pushed their mattresses against them. It all seemed so inefficient.
"The building converted to condos in the early 2000s, and for a while the owners were living there... but over time, the owners moved away," says Ciraldo, the executive director of the Miami Design Preservation League. "The problem I'm realizing is a lot of these smaller buildings, unlike the glitzy high-rises south of Fifth, usually don't have property managers. A lot of times the owners don't live locally, and they don't have hurricane preparation plans."
Ciraldo, who is the only condo owner in his building who actually lives in his own unit, has since evacuated to Georgia, but he hasn't forgotten about his neighbors or the other vulnerable renters who live in Miami Beach and throughout South Florida. On Saturday morning, he started a Google Form to crowdsource information from tenants about whether their landlords made hurricane plans or took basic preparations like putting up hurricane shutters.
"I had people in my building asking, 'What do I do?' and I didn't really know for sure since it's the first major hurricane since I've been a property owner," he says. "It's a little 1940s building, and there was just no plan. Property owners were not responsive."
After the storm passes, Ciraldo says he will compile the information and use it to try to make sure property owners are held to a higher standard before the next hurricane.
"If other people were in the same situation my neighbors were in, I'm hoping we can all work together to ensure the laws that are existing are enforced or, if there aren't proper protections, that we can work on implementing them," he tells New Times. "It looks like Miami Beach may be spared this time, but if the track had kept on as it was supposed to, this would have likely been a major catastrophe given the lack of preparation."
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