Happy 100th, Miami Beach

Poolside at the Allison Hotel on Miami Beach in 1957; it later became the Cadillac Hotel. This photo was sent to northern newspapers in February, the dead of winter.
Poolside at the Allison Hotel on Miami Beach in 1957; it later became the Cadillac Hotel. This photo was sent to northern newspapers in February, the dead of winter. Miami Beach New Bureau

The city of Miami Beach, incorporated on March 26, 1915, is turning 100 and the party culminates with a massive beach concert on Thursday. Happy Birthday to our funnest city.

But as city leaders celebrate this centennial, the city by the sea is looking to its future and how that ocean lapping up against Ocean Drive could endanger it.

The morning after the city stages one of its largest free concerts ever — headlined by Gloria Estefan, Barry Gibb and Flo Rida — things will turn serious. On Friday, the city confronts climate change at a “Community Resiliency Summit — Miami Beach Rising Above” — featuring NBC Today Show weatherman Al Roker, scientists and politicians at the W South Beach Hotel.

Its wise for city leaders celebrate Miami Beach’s past while spotlighting its threatened future.

The summit will highlight the challenge of climate change that coastal cities face. Among the radical approaches up for discussion to prepare Miami Beach for the threat of rising seas: Elevate the entire city.

No city in Miami-Dade is more vulnerable to the effects of sea-level rise than Miami Beach.

We commend Mayor Philip Levine for realizing it and being at the forefront – especially in a state where the governor is uncomfortable with the terms “climate change” and “global warming.”

Since taking office, Mr. Levine has tackled head-on the flooding problem for which Miami Beach is infamous — especially during periods of king tides. The city has installed pump stations and one-way flex valves across the city.

Those are solid first efforts to preserve a city that has played a significant role in our local history.

It taught the world — and local residents — to appreciate pastel-colored Art Deco architecture, largely the work begun by founder Carl Fisher and finished by activist Barbara Capitman.

The city also owes a debt to entertainers like Jackie Gleason and the now-unpopular Arthur Godfrey for promoting the area as a paradise to millions of TV-watching Americans. Not to mention The Beatles, whose 1964 visit still resonates.

Miami Beach was the place to be, and no Miami Beach hotel attracted the rich and famous more than the world-famous Fontainebleau, where the presence of Frank Sinatra still lingers.

Jewish retirees escaping the cold and Cuban exiles escaping communism each found their way to the city in the 1960s and 1970s. For exiles, Miami Beach replaced Varadero Beach, and penniless new arrivals often landed their first jobs at a beach hotel as bus boys, maids and dishwashers.

They were replaced in the 1980s by the SoBe cool crowd, led by Louis Canales, Ingrid Casares and Chris Paciello partying in Tony Goldman-refurbished hotels. Gloria and Emilio Estefan opened some of the first restaurants in renovated Art Deco hotels on Ocean Drive, like Larios. And then came the leggy models.

On the flip side, what tale about racism in South Florida doesn’t mention the identification cards blacks who worked in the city were required to carry?

Still, those who live on “the mainland” are well aware that greater Miami’s history would not be as interesting if it weren’t for out-of-towners who mistakenly think sexy Miami Beach is Miami.

But what really made Miami Beach? It was those tourism publicity shots sent to newspapers up north to entice visitors to the sun-drenched city.

They worked.

Happy Birthday, Miami Beach. May you be around another 100.