Edison - Liberty City

The lights were out in this community looking to cut crime. Things are brighter again

A repaired light is back on by the memorial garden inside Annie Coleman housing complex in Liberty City.
A repaired light is back on by the memorial garden inside Annie Coleman housing complex in Liberty City.

Outdoor lights have finally been fixed at the Annie Coleman public housing complex in Liberty City, and residents hope their neighborhood will be safer as a result.

The lack of illumination was particularly poignant — and infuriating — around the courtyard memorial garden residents created to honor Ronald “Ziggy” Turner, the victim of a July 2015 shooting near his home.

“It’s a lot better,” said Angel Johnson, community space manager for the Miami Children’s Initiative, which has been advocating for repairs. “There are still a couple blind spots and a walkway where it remains very dark at night and those ought to be addressed.”

Five of six light poles are working again after at least a year. The sixth should be working next week, said Annette Molina, spokeswoman for Miami-Dade Public Housing and Community Development. Workers had to repair underground pipes and install some new fixtures.

The county also repatched 10 bullet holes on the outer wall of a unit that abuts the garden.

“Because of the rain, the plaster didn’t hold so it has to be replastered,” Molina said.

Requests to fix the lights and reduce crime at the 210-unit Coleman project and those at the Charles Drew K-8 Center basketball courts had met with little response, but a recent Miami Herald story and the persistence of concerned citizens were catalysts for action.

Andrew Kemp-Gerstel, Rafael Saldaña Jr. and Monique Hayes, graduates of the Miami Foundation’s Miami Fellows civic leadership and engagement program, made calls and sent emails to cut through the bureaucracy that had stymied Coleman residents. They expressed outrage and urged a solution to the problem.

“Residents say there are certain people who want it dark because it’s easier to do bad things in the dark,” Kemp-Gerstel said.

Miami-Dade Public Schools fixed the lights at the courts, which are now bustling with recreational activity in the evening. The county fixed the lights at the housing complex.

“It’s been disappointing to see how local government treats people differently according to their political and social capital,” said Kemp-Gerstel, a Miami attorney. “There’s an obligation to serve all communities and provide basic needs. It’s sad that it’s taken such an effort.”

Saldaña went to the complex Thursday night and noticed a “dramatic difference” with the lights on, “although it is still incredibly dark in the area,” he said.

“I have been just plain angry because this was a simple lack of maintenance,” said Saldaña, partner at a Miami real estate firm. “When government cares about something, it gets taken care of, but when they decide not to pay attention, nothing happens.

“But we are very grateful to the people with the school system and the county who have responded. No one has been obstructionist or evasive.”