Press Release: A Chevy for a Cadillac? A People’s Club?
The Urban Environment League Condemns the Soccer Stadium/Wall Against the Waterfront in Downtown Miami
A Resolution by the UEL’s Board of Directors
Contact: Gregory Bush, Vice President: 305-926-5001; firstname.lastname@example.org
For Immediate Release: Saturday 24, 2014
While explaining why the plan for the new soccer stadium in Miami’s FEC slip (and Bicentennial Park) was so valuable for residents, David Beckham’s adviser David Altschuler recently said that trading a Chevy for a Cadillac should be a “pretty fair transaction.” His comment underscores a fundamentally elitist misunderstanding of the needs of our community under the mantle of attracting a major league soccer team to Miami. Such a notion of status is not the central issue to define this issue, nor is Michael Putney’s recent assertion that soccer legend David Beckham strikes him as a “regular guy” as a rationalization for deference. The stadium – in the last open space in downtown Miami – is wrong because it insults any sense of smart urban design in contemporary times by deferring to a soccer legend as a front man for financial backers. How dumb can we be – again? The UEL strongly condemns the action by City and County Mayors in strong-arming a hastily drawn plan to wall off more of our long forlorn downtown waterfront against residents in favor of a Major League Soccer stadium. While some of the arguments in favor of the stadium in the FEC slip strike us as old and tired, it is important that we remember what we have experienced – and forgotten – in the recent history of attempts by sports corporations to “take” our rare public waterfront through complex formulas that disguise the theft of public space for private interests. The UEL believes that the public is, finally, tired of these games and will show their anger to public officials over the coming months in a variety of ways. One argument that the Beckham forces have used is that nothing has been happening in Bicentennial Park and Parcel B? It’s dead space. Altschuler notes: “There are no places for people to gather. There is no place to have an ice cream with your child. There is no place to have a glass of wine and enjoy the view. It is a skeleton park. Not a fully fleshed out, robust park.” Well hello, we have been through that argument before. People do have memories. Public officials have failed to follow through in making the park a secure and attractive place. In 2000, the argument against the Marlins was “Bums or Baseball” which was equally fallacious because over so many years- public waterfront parks have been set up for failure by conscious neglect by public officials. Well why is that and what does it mean now? Parks need funding and long tem planning for security, maintenance and amenities. That has seldom happened in this city with any continuity. Another argument advanced is that the new Beckham plan will provide more park land for the public? Those figures are fallacious. At least 2.7 acres were previously pledged to be parkland and never delivered after the 1996 referendum. Four acres will be taken away from Bicentennial Park for the stadium. Taxpayers have already paid millions to improve the “new found land” in the slip. The cost of each acre of land could be valued at $17 million or more if sold in the open market. What a gift to the rich! It is clear is that urban density and traffic will become far more intense in an area of Miami that is so often gridlocked- even NOW. And there is no parking included in the hastily promoted design. The stadium is projected to be 100 feet high and will clearly block views of the water, obscured by the deceptively alluring architectural renderings that have been so widely dispensed by the largely compliant press. Ultimately, the UEL condemns the recurrent rapidity of decision making. Last minute deals, the deference paid by local officials to private sports entrepreneurs – just like 1996 – when today public assets (libraries, parks) so often go neglected. After the 1996 referendum on the Arena, Parcel B (2.7 acre open space on the waterfront), a central element in selling the stadium to the public (according to the Heat’s own PR guru Michael Murphy (2004), was quickly changed by the county commission to allow various commercial interests. The public had been deceived. Overall, the local press, with few exceptions, has been embarrassing and irresponsible in its fawning deference to this soccer star embracing Miami as his new town. We’ve heard that before. Many questions need to be asked by the public in a more organized manner. The UEL demands a better public process – hopefully championed by local elected officials – so that what happened in relation to the Marlin’s attempt to get cheap waterfront land for their stadium will not be revisited. We should not be fooled again. Miami faces another defining moment in its history. It not only relates to the stupidity of walling off our waterfront, the insane density being proposed, and endlessly rearranging what passes for public space today. It also concerns another example of a rushed deal- thrown at the public through a compliant press that echoes Beckham saying “take our demands and do it quickly or we wont play in your town.” Sounds like a spoiled child to us. Quality public government must rely on thoughtful and transparent planning processes. That’s central to this issue. To conclude, the UEL calls for public officials to speak out for our public waterfront, not the quickly drawn scheme before us. We call for a variety of public protests, organization of effort by many groups, and we seek a better process to forge alternative modes of activating our waterfront and the connectivity needed for all our people. Stop this prvaization of public space. We also need to remember that this struggle is not simply about the needs of any one group of real estate interests but, like other cities with vibrant waterfronts, it should involve the larger decision making process and the imperative need to enhance our public waterfront through coherent and transparent public planning.