From the parking lot, Dinner Key Marina, the largest wet slip dock in Florida, looks great: White yachts and sailboats bob on blue water under the blue sky. But try to enter the marina, and you’ll be jolted out of any reverie by signs that say “Caution,” “Danger,” and “Enter at your own risk.”
Dinner Key Marina was decimated by Hurricane Irma. According to the Herald, 32 boats sank or were shredded. And recovery has been slow. The last of the damaged or sunken boats weren't removed until February, according to a February photo from FEMA.
But tenants at the marina say those sunken boats were just the tip of the iceberg of the damage left by the hurricane. Nine months after Irma, tenants say many of many of the 580 docks are still broken, unsafe to use, or just gone entirely. The electrical work is still shorted out, and many of the power pedestals still aren't working. The fire alarm system is currently broken too.
“What was a modern jewel of a marina in the city of Miami right now is a run-down lagoon,” says Robert Neubauer, who has docked his boat at the marina for over 30 years.
Neubauer says that “barely even a band-aid’s worth” of repairs are going on at the marina.
Now, many tenants are angrily pointing the finger at City Hall, which sits just a few feet away on the waterfront, and wondering when the city will fix all the problems.
A month after the hurricane, Neubauer says he went to the dockmaster’s office for an update. He was told he needed to talk to the city. Since then, he says, repeated calls and emails to city officials including local Commissioner Ken Russell's office haven't been returned.
“I understand we had a bad storm, but I can’t seem to get any answers from anyone,” he says.
Stephanie Severino, a spokesperson for the city, says the marina is currently running at 60 percent capacity, and that $1.5 million has been lost from September 2017 to May 2018 due to the unusable, dilapidated docks. Between fixing the docks and any underwater structural damage and bringing the marina up to code, repairs are estimated to cost $38 million.
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Those repairs could take 12 and 18 months to complete, she says; right now, the city is in the planning stages. Miami commissioners passed two emergency motions earlier this year to speed up repairs citywide, but it's still typical for a "redevelopment project of this size" to take months to complete. This is because the procedure the city must follow to be reimbursed for the repairs by FEMA and its insurance carriers "adds a substantial amount of time to the process," she wrote.
Neubauer is still skeptical, mainly because the city has yet to respond to him. "This is all I've been asking," he says. "What's the plan and what's the schedule? It sounds like there's still a big gap there."
Natalia Vanegas, Commissioner Russell's public affairs manager, said she never received any emails from Neubauer. After she was forwarded an email Neubauer sent her on May 22, she said it was likely a mistake — she had never seen the email. "There is a filter that sometimes [stops emails], like some emails may go through a security system," she says. "So maybe that's what it is. I didn't get a phone call. I always reply. I'll definitely follow up."
Neubauer says he worries the hundreds of tenants who rely on a functional dock space are being forgotten in the political process. “I’m a small fish in a big pond,” Neubauer says.