Miami has a reputation for being the kind of city where it's fine to fake it. But city officials' decision to replace dozens of plots of real grass with artificial-turf-covered concrete is not going over well.
For days, Brickell residents have been gathering to protest the fake grass, which was installed several weeks ago on the swale along Brickell Avenue between SE 15th and 25th Roads. They've been circulating a petition demanding the city reverse course. They've also posted signs crying out, "Save me! I will die soon," on trees they say will be killed because their roots are now covered with concrete, a layer of green glue, and the fake turf.
Miriam Merino, one of the organizers, says the trees will not get the water and nutrients they need to survive. Besides that, she and her neighbors loathe the look of the artificial grass and fear that dog poop won't be able to disintegrate into the artificial covering, making the street reek.
"Why do we have to
City officials have so far defended the move. Confronted by fake-grass haters during a Tuesday homeowners association meeting in Shenandoah, Mayor Francis Suarez said that the swale was in "terrible condition" and that replacing the grass would have been extremely expensive. Palmetto grass is difficult to maintain, he
Suarez, who was at the meeting to discuss his bid for strong mayor, said he had checked with the public works director to ensure the trees would be free from harm.
"The trees are not going to be in jeopardy; the trees are not going to be killed," he said. "I do think it looks dramatically better than the way that it used to look."
Commissioner Ken Russell, who represents Brickell, tweeted a photo of new plants and trees on Brickell Avenue, along with a note that the neighborhood "just got a jungle upgrade."
New trees and plantings. Brickell just got a jungle upgrade. Thank you ?@MiamiMayor? and ?@emiliotgonzalez? for this beautification initiative in what has become a truly residential district of ?@CityofMiami? pic.twitter.com/CYJ0pZbNYK— Ken Russell Miami (@kenrussellmiami) October 10, 2018
The post led furious residents to yell at him about the fake plots of grass.
But what about the plastic grass? No plastic grass in a jungle.— Lynne (@LynneSladky) October 10, 2018
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Filmmaker Billy Corben dubbed the fake grass "beautification fraud" in a tweet blasting Suarez, Russell, and City Manager Emilio Gonzalez.
UPDATE: Brickell “beautification” fraud worse than we thought. @CityofMiami Mayor @FrancisSuarez, city manager @EmilioTGonzalez and Commissioner @KenRussellMiami are paving over REAL grass with cement and replacing it with FAKE grass because Miami. pics via @lynchpinL @csuarez011 pic.twitter.com/kWcklRRajX— Billy Corben (@BillyCorben) October 10, 2018
The city slightly backed off amid the mounting complaints yesterday. In a memo, the public works department said the contractors had laid the concrete too close to the base of the trees. When Merino arrived for the protest that evening, some of the concrete had already been broken up for removal.
"It's just stupid," she says. "I cannot use any other word for it. Now it looks worse than it looked before."