Currently viewing the tag: "Poverty"
If you’ve ever traveled through the Grove (emphasis on Center Grove for this piece), you’ve probably noticed the ubiquitous gates and walls that fortress off most homes and buildings in the neighborhood. Perhaps many of these residents believe that gates and walls provide a feeling of safety and sense of security to protect them from the “inherent criminal element” of the urban neighborhood. Others might claim that it’s privacy they desire, and that suburban dream can only be realized with walls and gates in a place designed like the Center Grove. Regardless of the intent, these walls and gates symbolize the growing socioeconomic polarization of Miami as well as the decline of the street as a functional element of the public realm.

In effect, all of the individual gated and walled parts equate to a de facto gated neighborhood, a fortress-like mentality that aims to separate from poorer, less fortunate parts of the community. The message is clear: outsiders (i.e. West Grove residents) are not welcome here. Should we be surprised? Not really. Many outspoken Grove residents are still disillusioned about being a City of Miami neighborhood and not some quaint, autonomous slice of paradise. Regarding urban design, they wish they lived in an exclusive suburb, yet want the amenities afforded by a lively urban community. Therefore, they choose to wall themselves from the greater society they don’t want to be apart of, and rally for easy access (e.g. secure driveways and easily available business district parking) to the places they frequent. Call it “cherry-picking urbanism”.

Anyone who travels down SW 32nd Ave/McDonald Ave (probably by car, given that sidewalks are non-existent) is moving down one the most unambiguous demarcations of poverty and wealth in any major American city. However, instead of the entire Grove community choosing to deal with these socioeconomic imbalances, the wealthier Center Grove has largely chosen to barricade itself from the West Grove’s problems. One gets the feeling that Center Grove residents are just waiting for well-off, private regarding urban pioneers to venture across McDonald Ave, gentrifying the West Grove parcel-by-parcel, block-by-block until it merges with its equally well-fortified South Grove neighbor.

The point is, the infamous gates and walls that have sprouted up like weeds in recent decades are cancerous to civic life and public spaces, as is evident by the astonishing segregation of these two neighborhoods despite their close proximity. We can and should do a better job building inclusive neighborhoods that are critical for democracy, social progress, and high quality civic life. It’s a delusion to think these easily traversable gates and walls provide any legitimate means of security. Thus, instead of barricading ourselves and turning away from the West Grove, it’s opening up to the street and being inclusive that gives the best opportunity for the whole community to be a safer, more democratic place.

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The last several days, the Herald has released an exclusive piece thoroughly documenting the shady activities of local poverty peddlers, namely the Miami-Dade Empowerment Trust (the website is conspicuously “under construction”). I highly recommend reading these articles, as they illuminate how a few corrupt people have been able to perpetuate poverty in Liberty City the last several years.

Here’s an excerpt from today’s piece, part 4, referring to the trust’s dealings around MLK Blvd and NW 7th Ave:

“A review of hundreds of records and nearly a dozen interviews shows that the trust’s strategy for this historic street corner hurt the very people it was supposed to help while millions in tax dollars earmarked for small businesses went to botched deals that failed to create promised jobs.”

Obviously, corruption isn’t new to the Miami area. However, the nature of it being a frequently recurring theme is very troubling. If you’ve been following it, you’ll see that it cuts across all races and many ethnicities, so citizens should not childishly point their fingers at any one group. It’s critical, however, that as citizens we don’t become so crusted that we lose sight of the positive projects (i.e. Miami 21 and Miami Streetcar) that will help make Greater Miami a better place.

We must also recognize that the current state of affairs is just not acceptable. Our communities continue to become more and more polarized racially, ethnically, and especially socioeconomically. “Sprawliticians” are using their power in many instances to continue making a buck of our great land, while ensuring Miami is an unsustainable, inequitable, traffic congested mess into perpetuity. We need to keep this in mind when we go to the voting booths, and we need to start asking tough questions about the qualifications of officials (do you have ties to Big Construction or are you for Smart Growth?) and administrators that run our government.

Photo courtesy of iceman9294’s flickr

I got home last week and ironically one of the first things I reached for was the most recent edition of Time magazine which happened to be lying around. I thumbed through the pages when a striking image of a beach I recognized caught my eye. After reading the article There’s Trouble-Lots of It-in Paradise, I tossed the magazine aside in utter disgust that such a prominent news organization could foolishly paint such a bleak and inaccurate portrait of my home city. It felt like a personal assault. I decided not to blog about the article that evening to not further publicize the rubbish. However, recently some bloggers have shared their own sentiments on living in the Greater Miami region, most notably; Rick of SOTP. Rick plans on leaving for Denver as soon as a job becomes available in the area in order to be closer to the rural surroundings where he plans on retiring. I don’t question his choice on places for retirement, I’m sure the Rocky Mountain crisp air and wilderness are just as ideal as the beautiful warm beaches across our state, but, I do doubt the widespread belief that Denver or any other major US city will prove to be a better temporary alternative home. Now, it’s not just Denver, or Rick’s case, but, many of the sentiments shared as reasons to leave Greater Miami are just as prevalent in nearly every American city across the country. Let’s start with traffic. With the exception of a couple major metropolitan regions in the country with excellent public transit, traffic is just as bad if not worse as in Miami (Although, yes, the drivers may not be as bold.) Cost of Living. That’s easy, if you live near a major metropolitan area, you are likely going to pay for the convenience the only way this can be avoided is by moving to the rural parts of the country or to a smaller town or municipality. Business week (via SOTP) references the most affordable suburbs of 2006 all of which I am sure are plagued with the traffic, living costs, etc. They noted Weston as an affordable suburb of Ft. Lauderdale which is ironically itself a suburb of Miami; I can only imagine the traffic headache face Weston residents face on a daily commute. I digressed, but, there was a point in there that I wanted to make: Due to the way our cities have been built over the past few decades, we are all likely to face the same set of poor development hassles associated with city living.

Going back to the Time Magazine article, I find it extremely unprofessional for the author and editor of the magazine to portray such a biased and generally inaccurate story about any municipality. The article focuses on rising insurance premiums and a terrible education system in Miami, both of which are problems which face our entire state rather than solely our community and are the result of terrible guidance by the state and national lawmakers. The article fails to include how Miami’s crime rate has decreased significantly since its all time highs in prior decades. How about the fact that Miami is still the bustling hub for Latin-American business in the United States, second only to New York City in International Banking and Diamond trade, is experiencing a boom unlike no other American city, and is the site to one of the largest global modern art showcases when Art Basel visits. A recent article in the New York Times highlights the recent growth of Wynwood arts district and how the event has changed the once blighted neighborhood. As Bob:Miami points out, this article appears nearly 25 years after to the date of another Time article which began like this: “South Florida is hit by a hurricane of crime, drugs and refugees…” yippee! Let’s not forget their masterpiece published in 1996 titled Gloom Over Miami. As a reader also wisely noted, Tim Padgett, the author of the most recent anti-Miami tirade, wrongfully interchanged statistics between the City of Miami and Miami-Dade County throughout the article. Just bad journalism.

As if a blow by Time magazine wasn’t enough for one week, one of our Senators, Tom Tancredo, publicly stated from a conservative rally at the Breakers in Palm Beach that “Miami has become a Third World country. You just pick it up and take it and move it someplace. You would never know you’re in the United States of America. You would certainly say you’re in a Third World country.” Don’t hold back Tancredo, tell us how you really feel. Certainly he’s visited a third world Country and must speak from his wise experiences. (Note: Tancredo hasn’t ever visited the Miami area and would be willing to do so if he could stay at a five star hotel, just the kind of guy we need making national decisions, a pork barrel spender who makes decisions based on circumstantial evidence, cough, cough, Iraq.) So, I guess Tancredo is the type of guy that would find even the most accommodating Marriott Resort as “roughing it.” I hate to break the news to you, but Miami is haven for Cuban-Americans, most of which are considered legal US citizens due to the policies of the oppressive government back in their homeland. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen was quick to defend our city (well sort of, just because they’re in the same party I’d never refer to someone who flat out insults my hometown and district as a “friend”) by inviting Tancredo to visit beautiful Miami and experience our hospitality firsthand. Jeb Bush also quickly came to the defense of the city he will soon once again be calling home and called the senator naïve. I think he’s just an ignorant out-of-touch politician who is just looking to get some sort of approval from his conservative base and clearly fails to realize that like New York and Boston were once havens to Irish Immigrants, Miami is today’s haven to Hispanic culture.

Read Tancredo’s reply to Gov. Bush (The opening statement begins with the notion that Jeb has the “…desire to create the illusion of Miami as a multiethnic all American city…”)

As I search for some sort of reasonable conclusion for this article, I am compelled to remind people that running away from the issues which plague our city is simply not the right solution (No, I don’t accuse Rick, or Tere of running away…Rick is retiring and Tere is likely part of the middle-class that is being squeezed nationally.) Miami, like every major metropolitan city across the nation has its share of problems, but, they will not get better unless we collectively decide to do something about it. Traffic is a uniform problem across the United States, from major cities down to small towns because of the way we have chosen to live and build our municipalities. If we don’t stand up to these problems today, our past will repeat itself and Miami will forever become synonymous with criminal activity, drugs, and a haven for Latin-American culture…

Updates:

Michael Lewis of Miami Today News has a great reply to the Time Article…

Time Magazine affiliates HBO and AOL (all under the Time-Warner Umbrella, local office in Doral) have offices in Miami, Oh the irony…

The company which engineered the exterior cladding of the AOL/Time-Warner headquarters in NYC, is based in Miami…Permasteelisa

Sorry Time Magazine and Tommy Tancredo, Miami ditched the statewide slump in Tourism…Guess people like to visit third world cities…

26th Parallel, Riptide, and Flablog all chime in…

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