Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Sitting on the Dock in the Bay

Last night there was a presentation by Kimley-Horn to show and discuss ideas for developing bay access at the East Bridge (the one to Miami Beach.)   It was held in the commission chambers/day care center/building lobby at 1666 JFK Causeway.  Present were three members of the commission, the mayor Connie Kreps, the vice mayor Eddie Lim and Commissioner Jorge Gonzalez.  Along the side were several drawings of what the access might look like.  

The meeting starting out with Jorge Puig of Kimley Horn describing the challenge.  In an area with no land to speak of, a metal drawbridge and with no Bay Walk, Kimley Horn accepted $100,000 to create a concept plan that would join the nonexistent Bay Walk and provide access to the waterfront.   

After a Power Point presentation showing that there is a bridge there, two concepts were presented, one curvy and one less curvy.   In each concept, there would be some trees, bushes and ground cover planted on both sides of the roadway, mostly native plants but other ones as well.  There would be stairs so people could descend from the sidewalk and ascend to the sidewalk, depending on their position.   Mr. Puig suggested that North Bay Village put "something iconic" in the planted area that would represent North Bay Village but made no suggestions as to what that might be.  

But the big reveal was how this would give us, the residents Access To The Bay.  Remember the curvy, less curvy alternatives I mentioned above?   Well, the idea is to build a boardwalk that extends under the bridge between the third and fourth columns for us to stroll through.   We can choose a curvy one or a curvier one, depending on our taste.  

And with that, he opened the floor to public comment.  And comment the public did.  

The first up was a longtime resident of East Treasure Drive who brought up the long, sad history of North Bay Village and the broken promises.  The $4 million park on Harbor Island, the promise of access to the bay while simultaneously allowing building after building to block the view and close the access, the bulb outs which he doesn't like and objected to one more project that does not meet what the residents want.   

Since no one was moderating the meeting, the discussion quickly became a back and forth among those sitting in the  front row, including two of the commissioners.  Vice Mayor Lim wants fountains that would spray water from the bay into the sky, illuminated and with many colors.  This was noted.  Commissioner Gonzalez was concerned that people might use the boardwalk and wanted to know what means were being put in place to block that (seriously, I am not making that up.)  Mayor Kreps sat in the back rocking herself and singing "The Rainbow Connection" from the Muppets (okay, I am making that one up.  She never said a word.)   

One resident brought up concerns about people living under the bridge and another concerns about fishing.  Two developers were there to support the project because they think the village needs improvement.  They never commented on the quality of this project. 

Opinion Time:  Since it is a done deal, the village paid $50,000 out of our parks fund for it.  and since it will never be built as the state and county would never allow it.  and since I can't imagine that anyone in their right mind would find it a good idea to stroll under a metal drawbridge in the gloom of the daytime shadow and dark of night for relaxation, I only asked one question.  "Has any place, anywhere, to your knowledge built something like this?"  Mr. Puig, the Kimley Horn rep, first did not answer the question at all and then finally when I asked it again, said "No."   I almost felt sorry for him since he was hired to do an impossible task but that passed when I remembered they willingly grabbed the money.   

And there you have it.  A walkway that will never be built on the bay to connect a Bay Walk that the village has ignored for four years.  Now let's see how much Kimley Horn donates to the mayor's and Jorge Gonzalez's reelection campaigns.  Because that's what I think this is about.  

Kevin Vericker
July 2, 2014

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