Fisher Island Residents Battle Baylink Transit Route From Miami | Miami New Times

The Rich

Wealthy Fisher Island Residents Rail Against Baylink Project

Better Streets Miami Beach claims residents from the wealthy barrier island are concocting arguments in hopes of killing the project.
The Brickell skyline at sunset with Metromover over the Miami River
The Brickell skyline at sunset with Metromover over the Miami River Photo by Golden Dusk Photography/Getty
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Nearly four decades in the making, Miamians may finally get public transit connecting the mainland and Miami Beach.

But not if a vocal contingent of NIMBY detractors gets its way.

First proposed in 1988, the long-awaited Baylink corridor has been championed by transit advocates and fed-up Miami commuters alike as an answer to the area's notorious traffic and lack of parking. The plan took on several forms over the years — proposed as a streetcar, light rail, or monorail — before county officials settled on a cheaper plan in November to expand the existing Metromover to connect downtown and Miami Beach with a "one-seat" ride. Officials say construction on the $1 billion extension would begin in 2025 and wrap up by 2029.

Since the project was announced, residents from one of the country's most affluent neighborhoods have emerged to voice their opposition.
On February 16, an attorney representing residents of Fisher Island, a wealthy enclave accessible only by boat or ferry, sent a letter to the Miami-Dade Department of Transportation and Public Works and U.S. Coast Guard officials calling the current Baylink plans "unlawful and short-sighted."

"Instead of rushing headlong toward approving this significant project... the Coast Guard must conduct a proper evaluation of the changes to the project and evolving environmental conditions to ascertain the environmental impact of the project," attorney Lawson Fite wrote in the seven-page letter.

Not everyone is buying into the residents' qualms.

Matthew Gultanoff, the founder of the advocacy group Better Streets Miami Beach, contends that their concerns aren't genuine — and that opponents from the wealthy barrier island are concocting the argument in hopes of killing the project.

"It's sickening, actually. This is a project that could benefit thousands, even hundreds of thousands of residents, employees, and visitors of Miami Beach, City of Miami, and the whole entire region," Gultanoff tells New Times. "And you have a small community opposing it, you know, one that is reached only by ferry."

As filmed by Miami Herald reporter Doug Hanks during a February 9 meeting held by county officials at a luxury condo in South Beach, a room full of residents chanted "Stop the train!" in opposition to the project.
Fite has not responded to New Times' requests for comment via email.

Gultanoff and fellow advocates for the project believe there's ample evidence Baylink will help ease Miami's worsening affordable housing and traffic crises.

A petition created by Gultanoff's group, which has garnered more than 1,200 signatures, says that Baylink would provide Miami Beach residents with a broader range of jobs and reduce traffic that turns the MacArthur Causeway and nearby roads into parking lots during special events.

Gultanoff claims it's absurd to call the project rushed, given that it's been in the works for decades. He says that local residents' opposition is "baffling," given that their commutes contribute to the congestion on the MacArthur Causeway and elsewhere.

"They are part of the problem," Gultanoff says. "They're looking out for their self-interest, I suppose."

Correction published 4:35 p.m.: As originally published, this story referenced a Facebook post published by a group that calls itself Save SoFi, voicing opposition to Baylink. We erroneously attributed the post to David Suarez, a Miami Beach resident and the founder of an advocacy group with the same name.

We have deleted the Facebook reference from this story and we apologize to Mr. Suarez and his Save SoFi, for the misattribution.
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