The proposal to build an accessible wellness center in a beachfront park hit a snag Friday when Miami Beach commissioners recommended looking for a new location.
Commissioners sitting on the city’s Neighborhood/Community Affairs Committee voted to explore other options for a center proposed by Sabrina Cohen, a quadriplegic since 1992, whose foundation is leading the effort to create a facility where people with disabilities can seek physical therapy.
The project was met with opposition in December, when neighbors organized a group called “Save Allison Park” to rally against the wellness center. They maintained they didn’t want to see green space taken away from the park and suggested finding a new location.
They got their way Friday, when the committee recommended that the full Beach commission consider other spots, including land next to the fire station at Collins Avenue and 53rd Street.
Clad in green shirts emblazoned with “Save Allison Park,” a large group of neighbors applauded the vote.
“This is about saving green space,” said Joe Gehegan, 70, who lives next to the park. “And it would block the view of the ocean. That’s why people buy there, because of that view.”
Sabrina Cohen’s attorney, Michael Llorente, said afterward that the Sabrina Cohen Foundation would work with the community and city to find a good spot for the project. He also noted that while most of the dialogue around the issue has been cordial, some residents made the conversation more heated than it needed to be.
“I think some people made this unnecessarily adversarial,” he said.
A public meeting to review possible alternate locations is set for 6:30 p.m. Feb. 23.
Also Friday, the committee recommended preserving handball courts in Flamingo Park that had been slated for demolition.
After Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine suggested the parks department look for a place to build courts for a little-known racquet sport called pádel, plans were made to construct four such courts that would cost about $200,000. The pádel courts would replace two of six indoor handball courts at the park.
A group of regular handball and paddleball players, confused by the plan to build courts for a sport they’d never heard of, asked commissioners to consider keeping all the handball courts and refurbishing them.
On Friday, the committee voted to keep the two indoor courts and abandon the pádel idea.