Instead of counting sheep, Cory Boehne and his neighbors resorted to counting the beeps of a backhoe in reverse.
It was no use. Another night of sleeplessness for the condo dwellers of Nirvana, which has been anything but for the past month.
Their building sits 30 feet away from the new MiMo Bay apartment complex, where noisy round-the-clock construction has frayed nerves to the breaking point. Rumbling trucks, ear-splitting jackhammers, saws that sound like amplified fingernails on a chalkboard. Add to that crying babies, baying dogs, cursing neighbors, and it’s not a harmonious picture on Miami’s blossoming Upper East Side just south of Legion Park at Northeast 64th Street and Biscayne Boulevard.
“Sleep deprivation is a form of torture, just ask the CIA,” Boehne said. “The volume has been astonishing, intolerable. It sounded like gun fire: Dat-dat-dat-dat-dat.”
Blinding lights add to the nightmare, said Andrea Thompson, whose unit is right across the street.
“It’s like living in a stadium instead of your own home,” she said. “It interrupts your peace of mind.”
The neighborhood known for its Miami Modern architecture and bayfront Legion Park is enjoying a resurgence as new condo and apartment buildings go up near streets lined with vintage houses. The old American Legion Post and a few surrounding homes were torn down to make way for MiMo Bay.
The contractor for the MiMo Bay project, Coastal Construction, applied for and was granted a waiver nine months ago from the city of Miami’s building department that allowed night work from 10 p.m. to 8 a.m., in addition to the city’s regular 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday window. Coastal said the extra hours were necessary to “protect the safe access of residents and visitors” to Legion Park and Nirvana.
But nobody at Nirvana bought that as a logical justification. There are three alternate entrances to both places “that we would gladly use as opposed to having our lives impacted in such a negative way,” said Sofia Horvath, a physician who is five months pregnant and has to wake at 5 a.m. for her job.
At 2 a.m. on a recent night, bleary-eyed Nirvana residents staggered downstairs in their pajamas, recorded the racket on their phones and decided to stop it. They put up flyers in their building, wrote emails to the city and called their local Neighborhood Enhancement Team office.
“I am respectfully asking that the permits be immediately rescinded as there is no need for this work to be performed at night,” wrote Andrew Deves, who works in the construction business and said he knows how costly delays can be.
“I have lived in many different cities including Chicago which is a loud city with constant construction and I have never run into this issue before. I ask that you place the needs of the public before the profits of a construction company and development company.”
Michael Mazer wrote saying he could understand why night construction might be necessary on highways but not at “a private waterfront condominium building on a quiet side street in a residential neighborhood.”
Guess what? The city listened.
The noise waivers were revoked by City Manager Emilio Gonzalez and cannot be re-applied for. Gonzalez cited two specific code violations: Failure to retrofit machinery so that it would emit only white noise, and failure to install sound-dampening shrouds on the concrete pump. The city first sent a letter to the project’s contractor on April 22 warning that residents were complaining and the waiver could be rescinded.
Coastal has scheduled a meeting with residents and Neighborhood Enhancement Team representatives on Thursday.
“Coastal will make every effort to make everybody happy,” said senior supervisor Ted Manning. “That’s what the company does. They cooperate with residents during projects.”
But neighbors are concerned about enforcement of working hours and what might happen during the next phase of MiMo Bay. Manning contacted the city about renewing the permit to work from 6 or 7 a.m. to 8 a.m., assuring the city that “we have no more early morning concrete pours” scheduled.
“Coastal Construction is always sensitive of the surrounding areas with which it works, I’m certain that we can present a new plan of action to the adjacent neighbors so work can move forward,” he wrote.
Said Thompson: “We’re not interested in a new proposal or a compromise. They can get their work done. It’s just more convenient if they are behind schedule for them to do it whenever they want with no regard for the people living nearby. What they did was unfair and it’s been banned. We are worried they will try to circumvent the order.”
Thompson said the original proposal for MiMo Bay was 20 stories. Residents revolted and the height was reduced to six stories.
“Ten years ago this area was skanky,” Boehne said. “There were prostitutes and drug dealers on the corners, no-tell motels. It’s evolved into a friendly, trendy, wonderful neighborhood. And it is — or was — still peaceful. One of the few spots left in Miami where you can hear the birds sing in the morning.
“The city has allowed the typical crowding of new buildings with minimal setbacks. This new development took away my view, which is the price you pay for living in a growing city. We want to preserve what makes it pleasant.”
Thompson said what she and her neighbors accomplished can be an example to other Miami neighborhoods besieged by construction.
“This is what grassroots community effort is all about,” she said. “I called the city manager’s office to get to the right person directly. The city is like a big unwieldy animal. You can’t be passive. Nothing will change. Hopefully because of what happened here, the city will never issue a waiver like this again in a residential area.”
Added Boehne: “We’ve made a good blueprint for people with a genuine grievance about construction activity, which is not going away. Document what they’re doing, see if they’re in compliance, alert your government leaders. I kind of like the outlaw nature of Miami but there’s a line of sanity that must be maintained.”