Wednesday, June 30, 2010

June 30: Miami Commission Needs To Respect City's History

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Two different situations involving two different centers of history indicate that the Miami City Commission has recently become neglectful of that history.

In one case, there's the possible construction of a skateboard park in the Omni neighborhood. That wouldn't be such a bad idea, except for the park's two neighbors: Temple Israel of Greater Miami, founded in 1926, and the Miami City Cemetery, where the remains of Julia Tuttle, John B. Reilly - Miami's first mayor - and many other pioneers rest.

Consider skateboarders on the weekends - during hours coinciding with Temple Israel's Shabbat services - and at night, a possible threat to the sanctity of the cemetery, which has only recently begun to recover from years of vandalism and neglect.

There are other vacant lots in the Omni neighborhood that would be more appropriate for a skateboard park. City Commissioner and Omni Community Redevelopment Agency Chair Marc Sarnoff should talk to local business leaders about engineering a land swap or other deal that would keep things serene next to the temple and the cemetery.

Then there's the matter of the famed Gusman Center in Downtown Miami, which opened in 1925. Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado is threatening not to include any funding for the theater in his upcoming budget for the city. He's depending on the private sector.

Well, Mr. Mayor, the private sector is having trouble, too. Not enough money will mean the shuttering of that theater, which is in the National Register of Historic Places. Neither Gusman, which hosts the Miami Film Festival, nor the downtown area can afford that.

Architecturally and artistically, the Gusman Center is Downtown Miami's crown jewel. At the moment, there isn't another Maurice Gusman, the philanthropist who first saved the crumbling Olympia Theater in 1972, or Sylvester Stallone, the actor who paid for the theater's renovations during the 1990s.

What exists is a mayor and commission who need to remember that respecting and preserving Miami's history is part of their responsibility, too.

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