What are those things hanging from the trees in Miami’s Upper East Side neighborhood? Modernist birdhouses? Hefty wind chimes? Spooky Halloween decorations?
Could they be CIA spy cameras? Or devices dropped from an alien spaceship to collect data about humans? An outsider art installation using scavenged items to symbolize how tech culture is supplanting nature?
It is puzzling — not to mention hazardous and unsightly — to see the stout, black, three-foot long cylinders strung precariously from branches and dangling ominously from overhead telecommunications lines.
The canisters are also sitting on sidewalks, tempting any curious child to play with them. Some are sloppily strapped to utility poles with polyester mule tape or plastic yellow caution tape. Some are resting on front lawns.
“It’s crazy,” said Sandra Simioni, who owns a duplex in Palm Grove, near the corner of Northeast Fifth Avenue and 69th Street. “Some of these things have been here for two or three years. It’s like they started a work in progress and abandoned it.”
The incongruous equipment, combined with stray wires poking out onto sidewalks and messy coils of pendulous cable hanging like rats’ nests over residential streets, parks, a schoolyard and a church, detract from the appearance of the tidy, up-and-coming neighborhood and pose a danger to anyone passing near them, Simioni said. You better watch your step — and your head.
“Besides any possible electrical problem, people could trip and fall,” she said. “There are wires and cables everywhere — on the ground, within arm’s reach. I’ve had to move them or tie them so they’re out of the way.”
The black cylinders are fiber optic splice cases — weatherproof boxes protecting cable connections — according to a telecommunications expert who looked at photos.
They also appear from labeling and from signs posted by Florida Power & Light to belong to AT&T.
“We’re upgrading our network in the area, and are working to make permanent repairs to our equipment,” said Kelly Starling, an AT&T spokesperson. She did not say when the boxes would be gone.
Simioni and other neighbors said they have asked AT&T technicians working in the area what’s going on, but haven’t gotten a clear explanation. She insists the cases and dangling cables have been around for a long time — as long as three years.
“This is very dangerous for my children and ugly for my house,” said Maria Mendez, who lives on Northeast Fifth Avenue near Northeast 74th Street. A splice case and cables have been strapped with yellow caution tape to a wooden utility pole and palm tree on her swale for months. Her children and probably her dog could have done a neater job.
“We’ve heard nothing — no explanation, no timetable,” she said. “And the power goes out around here all the time, too.”
Lea Torres has a splice box in her front yard, by the fountain. It’s not pretty. A fat black cable is lashed to the concrete utility pole at the corner.
“It’s like they dumped it there and forgot about it,” she said.
Simioni is sure about one thing.
“If this was Coral Gables, this would not be tolerated,” she said of the “City Beautiful” known for its strict code enforcement. She said the city of Miami has cited her once for long grass and for trash that others dumped on her corner, and she finds those citations ironic. “This stuff is ruining the neighborhood.”