Bayfront Park, with its lush green space and palm tree-lined path along Biscayne Bay, may be an unlikely battleground. But future use of the downtown Miami park is up in the air, pitting a vocal group of “not in my backyard” residents against locals and tourists who want the park’s big-ticket events to stay.
Just two weeks after voting down Ultra Music Festival’s contract to stay in Bayfront Park, the Miami City Commission on Thursday unanimously agreed to limit outside events in the park in a preliminary vote.
The proposed ordinance would reserve the park for the general public for 85 percent of the year. In the remaining 55 days of the year, the park could host private events, though any prep time will also count.
The commission passed the ordinance after several minutes of largely dispassionate discussion. Commissioner Keon Hardemon — who represents Wynwood, Liberty City and Overtown — briefly noted a concern that the park would become a place used only by residents.
A number of the park’s neighbors say large-scale, multi-day productions like the Ultra and Rolling Loud festivals don’t belong there. The noise keeps them up at night, they say, and the extensive set-up and tear-down processes render the park unusable for sizable chunks of the year. Last year, the park was closed for 115 days for big events, their preparation and tear-down.
“It was impossible to sleep,” Amal Kabbani, a resident of 50 Biscayne, said about Ultra. “The vibration was really nasty, down to having dishes shake in our apartment.”
Kabbani, who is president of the Miami Downtown Neighbors Alliance and teaches free yoga classes in Bayfront Park, said the park should be a place to de-stress and connect with nature, not an entertainment venue.
She was one of about 10 downtown residents who expressed support of the proposal to city commissioners Thursday. Wearing caps and t-shirts emblazoned with “Save Bayfront Park” in green letters, the speakers also thanked the commissioners for voting against Ultra’s contract to return to the park.
Not all residents agree. Dan Phalen, 29, who lives at Centro Miami at 151 SE First St., said the park should be able to host events like Ultra. “I don’t think just because you dislike something that you should stop it,” he said.
Phalen and his puppy, Nike, visit Bayfront Park most afternoons. He said he doesn’t think the city should say some events are allowed and others aren’t: “You could have the same argument for Memorial Day weekend on South Beach,” he added.
The commissioners will take a final vote on the ordinance at a future meeting.