I was surprised to learn about the effort to create a conservancy that would operate and maintain Museum Park in the July 14 article Law could create ‘Central Park’ in Miami. Since 2009, the year I took over as chairman of the Bayfront Park Management Trust, it has done everything suggested that a conservancy can do. It has a proven record of exceeding all possible measurements of a semi-independent agency.
Bayfront Park Management Trust manages and operates Bayfront Park and the site where Museum Park is being built. Over the years, Bayfront and Bicentennial parks have been known for one of the biggest Fourth of July fireworks displays in southeast Florida and their New Year’s Eve fireworks celebration, which includes the Big Orange at no cost to the public. Moreover, it has hosted numerous events, including Cirque du Soleil, Cavalia, ING Miami and many festivals, rallies and walks in addition to free yoga, capoeira, boot camps and puppet shows.
Unlike the Central Park Conservancy, which receives millions of taxpayer funds from the city of New York, Bayfront Park Management Trust really differentiates itself in that all of those signature events are done without using any city funding. Miami hasn’t had to fund any maintenance or improvements to the parks since late 2009. It has budgeted $800,000 for next year’s maintenance of Museum Park and will be giving the city more than $500,000 to subsidize the city’s new legislation, which allows for an additional homestead exemption equal to the assessed value of the property to seniors who have lived in their homes for more than 25 years.
In the last few years, we have invested more than $4 million in capital improvements to the parks, built a healthy reserve and have made sure that donations and contributions go directly to their donors’ intended uses. For example, when Lee and Tina Hills donated the funding to build a playground at Bayfront Park, the Trust properly accounted for the funding, followed the city’s procurement and bidding process and built the playground.
We abide by the city’s procurement policy and procedures as set forth by the city charter, allowing for competitive bids. I don’t understand why as soon as we speak about the city of Miami waterfront properties, there are those who automatically look for creative ways to deal away precious city land without ever wanting to establish a competitive bid process or letting the people’s voice be heard through a public referendum.
I look forward to a healthy debate on the appropriateness of the proposed conservancy. In the meantime, if we are really serious about Museum Park becoming the next world-class green space, then let’s revisit whether the Omni CRA should honor its original commitment and fund the $68 million toward the original plans — not to mention the $2 million annually toward its capital improvement fund.
Frank Carollo, chairman, Bayfront Park Management Trust, Miami