News: Save Our Trees

The trees are disappearing on Brickell Avenue. Everyday for a week now, the natural canopy around the affluent neighborhood has fewer and fewer contributors. Many of the remaining trees now hold up cries for help in the form of signs that read: “I WILL DIE SOON,” and “They want to kill 75 of us!”

It’s a capital improvement project by the City of Miami that will chop away 70+ full grown trees and plant replacements, but residents are crying foul on the lack of notice they were given.

Many became aware of it last week when the three month project kicked off by chopping away the longtime medium fixtures.

That spawned a visceral reaction from residents, and many have been holding a daily protest every afternoon to collect signatures to stop the cutting of the remaining trees slated for execution.

About 30 or so have already gotten the ax, and at 1925 Brickell the damage is most clear. This is where the protestors young and old have made their stance. Holding brightly colored neon signs with the slogan “Save our Trees.”

Alongside their signs, they have a sign up sheet for their petition. While the SunPost could not get an exact number, many sheets filled with names were visible. A sight often repeated are cars stopping in front of the crowd and asking what’s going on, many get out and sign.

Many are outraged by the lack of notice. At the end of July, the city put yellow sheets on the trees slated for destruction along the Brickell Avenue medium. Those sheets are hard to read from a car or those jogging on the sidewalk.

One such jogger was Miriam Merino, she tried to get a public meeting opened on the matter, but was unsuccessful. Since then she has been a vocal opponent of the project.

She told the SunPost that she was told by the city that the trees showed low, medium, or advanced sickeness.

“Their reasoning is if your a little bit sick its better to kill you than to treat you. It’s a complete mismanagement of funds,” she said.

“Some of the trees may not be the most beautiful, but they have the right to be there,” said the tree supporter.

Merino said that the city went through the Brickell Homeowners Association, a private entity who charges for membership, does not represent all of Brickell.

“We didn’t elect them they are not,” said Merino, “they have no right to meet with our city commissioners, and our city commissioners have no right to depend on them to discuss a capital improvement of this sort and then relay on them to divulge the information.”

William Plasencia, Senior staff for Commissioner Marc Sarnoff who represents the Brickell area told the SunPost that going through the BHA was more cost efficient with all the individual condos in the area.

“Its very expensive to send a mailer..just do the math, Plasencia told the SunPost. Tax payers should look at that and determine whether their tax money should go in to expensive mailings, or maybe they should hold their condo associations more accountable.”

Plasencia told the SunPost that the Commissioner would look into better ways to communicate with the area in the future.

According to a memo by the Director of Capital Improvement Programs Mark Spanioli the 70 trees were identified as damaged, diseased, sick, leaning or in poor condition.

The 70 trees will be cut down and replaced with 237 new trees of various species. The project is estimated to cost $925,000 and will include a new irrigation system and 1000 new shrubs.

The project seems to have no end in sight, but the daily protests continue. Online a ‘Change’ petition has gotten over 600 signatures by press time.

The protests have been peaceful yet spirited. However one rally on Friday September 6 was broken up over six uniformed police officers who politely asked the protestors not to clog up the sidewalks.

A day later, they returned. And continue to return.

About Frank Maradiaga

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