Just a few hours after the Doral City Council voted to rename J.C. Bermudez park, its new moniker — Doral Central Park — was stickered across the Northwest 87th Avenue entrance sign.
The move was controversial at City Hall on Wednesday morning, as several residents and council members became vocal about the proposal to change the park’s identity, named after Doral’s first mayor, Juan Carlos Bermudez.
At the end, the vote was 4-1, with Councilwoman Ana Maria Rodriguez dissenting.
Vice Mayor Sandra Ruiz led the conversation Wednesday, saying that parks should not be named after elected officials. Councilman Pete Cabrera supported her position, despite his motion in 2007 to name the park after Bermudez, his former friend.
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“I like the name ‘Doral Central Park.’ It reminds me of New York,” he said.
“Placing a more neutral name is needed at this time,” she said. “Many of you may have your own reason to want to keep the park as it is. ... I’m respectful of relationships, friendships and alliances with the former mayor and respect anyone who has a different opinion than me. This is not in retaliation for anything.”
Rodriguez called Ruiz’s move “political.”
“It doesn't matter whether you like the first mayor or not,” Rodriguez said. “Renaming it after it has already been named, baffles me a bit. This person hasn't done anything wrong.”
The history of Doral politics is an intricate one, littered with “he says” and “she says.” Historically, Bermudez, Ruiz and Cabrera have not seen eye-to-eye, even though at one point they were good friends.
Bermudez agreed with Rodriguez, calling the renaming of the park, at 3000 NW 87th Ave., a “game of politics.”
In 2009, Bermudez didn’t vote for Cabrera, who was running for vice mayor. Since then, Bermudez said, his friendship with Cabrera spiraled, and so did his and Ruiz’s, who is known to be a close friend of Cabrera.
Cabrera has been very vocal about his dislike for Bermudez, whom he says was a bad leader.
Bermudez said the renaming of the park isn’t the end of the world.
“I never ran to have a park named after me,” Bermudez said. “So while certainly it was a great honor for myself and my family, it’s probably harder on my girls than on me. And yes, they have every right to change it, but they can’t take away that I was the first mayor and we were very successful for the first 10 years.”
Fraga, who also voted to rename the park, said that she doesn’t think parks should be named after living individuals. She added that she would vote for the change of name for re-branding purposes.
Rodriguez said she tried to put the item on the evening portion of the agenda, so that residents could be part of the conversation. The rest of the council did not budge.
“We all received a number of comments indicating that the residents are not in support,” she said.
Ruiz disagreed, saying that her position on changing the name of the park was not political, rather a necessity.
“A lot of people are very unhappy with the name. We keep talking about placing the city of Doral at the international level, so I do not support differing this item on another date. We are policymakers. We make the decisions and we move forward.”
Bermudez said “in the long run, it’s not going to impact my love and dedication for Doral.”
Residents speculate the renaming of the park is connected to Ruiz, Boria, Fraga and Bermudez possibly running for mayor in 2016.
Shortly after the vote, the sign in the park was transformed.
“Our City Council (except me) voted to change our City's park from JC Bermudez (Our first Mayor and one of our City's founders) to Doral Central Park today,” Rodriguez wrote on Facebook. “I wish everything in Government moved as quickly as this new sign was made.”