The readers’ forum

Correcting past mistakes in Overtown

 

While I appreciate the humor exhibited by Jim Morin in his May 6 editorial cartoon concerning the displacement of some longtime residents surrounding the 395 Signature Bridge, it undervalues arguably the second most transformational project to affect Overtown and the properties that sit underneath the current I-395 highway.

The 395 Signature Bridge offers a unique opportunity to revisit and improve on the admittedly serious design and planning flaws that were part of the expansion of Interstate 95 through this historic community in the1960s. Currently, the low-hanging bridge structures trap natural light and have allowed for the expansion of illicit activities along most of the 1.2 mile long stretch. The original bridge configuration has driven away generations of families, which forced businesses to close and economic revitalization efforts to stall.

With construction not scheduled to begin until 2018, plenty of time remains for residents to come together to plan and develop creative use designs that will help counter these unintentional and destructive consequences of poor planning in the past. Now we are faced with a unique opportunity to reactivate this area and bring it back into the economic and social fold of the greater downtown area. The Signature Bridge can serve as a catalyst between east and west, connecting other burgeoning developments happening east towards Biscayne Bay with the communities to the west, namely Overtown.

The significant roles and achievements of the many notable residents, visitors and places in Miami’s Overtown neighborhood will never be forgotten. They will always remain. In fact, with the reopening of the Lyric Theater, bolstered by its partnership with the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts and with Gibson Park quickly becoming one of Miami’s finest recreational facilities, we are already seeing the early stages of community transformation taking place.

I have broad shoulders and I am willing to bear the brunt of the criticism, but if we leave I-395 the way it is we leave the legacy of injustice placed upon this community that will live on in perpetuity. Rather, we can concede that mistakes that were made before any of us were here and correct them so that these attempts at healing can foster tangible progress. I was in no way the person, entity, agency or jurisdiction that made this decision, but I have played a small role and will continue to promote the greater good for our entire community.

Marc D. Sarnoff, commissioner, Miami

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