Liberty Square Proposals Show County Doesn't Care About the Community

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez has no respect for Liberty City’s residents and the people who work tirelessly to help them. Last year, he unveiled a plan to demolish the Liberty Square public housing project and build a new community that would mix low-income apartments with market-rate rentals.

The mayor and his minions have promised that all current residents will have an opportunity to return, but there’s a caveat: Only those in “good standing” will get an apartment at the new Liberty Square. Now Gimenez is about to recommend one of two firms to redevelop Miami-Dade’s oldest public-housing apartment complex. The payoff is $74 million in taxpayer financing. The county commission will decide whether to accept Gimenez’s pick.

These proposals show the county doesn't care about the residents who live in Liberty Square, which is also known as the Pork 'n' Beans. The county required bidders to include a charter school in their proposals without ever consulting with officials from Miami-Dade County Public Schools. Gimenez also froze out Miami Commissioner Keon Hardemon, whose district includes Liberty Square.  (Editors note: County spokeswoman Annette Molina called after publication to point out the county did not require a charter school. Bidders, she says, submitted this on their own.)

Recently, schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho attempted to meet with Gimenez to express his concerns about the damage the charter school component would do to neighboring public schools by siphoning children away from the public school system. In fact, a new charter school would kill Miami Northwestern Senior High and other elementary schools in the area.

Instead of hearing Carvalho’s concerns, Gimenez went crying to the Miami-Dade Ethics Commission. He reported the superintendent for allegedly violating some bureaucratic rule barring county officials from commenting during the competitive bid process.

Gimenez was careful. He asked the two remaining bidders to submit revamped proposals. But Atlantic Pacific Communities still plans to build a charter school. However, Related Urban Development Group abandoned the school component and is partnering with Miami Heat executive and former NBA star Alonzo Mourning to build a Liberty Square youth center.

That’s a slap in the face to organizations such as the Liberty City Optimist Club and Helping Hand, which have put in more than 25 years of community service. According to its most recent tax returns, the Mourning Family Foundation raked in $1.5 million in tax revenue in 2014. Not a dime has been spent on behalf of kids in Liberty City. Furthermore, Miami's Overtown Redevelopment Agency spent $5.1 million building a gym at Gibson Park because Mourning's youth center wouldn't allow access to youth groups in the area.

Liberty Square’s residents deserve better.

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