The city of Miami and the Ultra Music Festival just can’t quit each other.
Too bad for thousands of downtown Miami residents who have hated the annual three-day festival in their front yard and thought it gone forever because, they mistakenly thought, the city cared about them and listened to their longstanding complaints.
Less than a year after the city kicked the festival out of downtown Miami, sending it to Virginia Key — where it encountered considerable hitches — Miami commissioners next week will again consider bringing the world-famous electronic dance music event back to its 18-year home at Bayfront Park.
Nearby residents are livid, again. We don’t blame them.
We know what prompted this attempt at a reconciliation, the same thing that greases the wheels for many such events: money. Under the new proposal, Ultra would pay the city a minimum of $2 million to stage its event at Bayfront. And hotels and restaurants do benefit, something not easy to dismiss.
But the city will get a black eye if the pursuit of money leads it to ignore the legitimate gripes of residents who for years have complained about the interruption the festival brings to their lives. Some might dismiss the complaints coming from largely well-off residents, those in highrise condos with a bay view. But their economic status is irrelevant. The fact that the city might go back on its word to these taxpayers’ is.
The condo residents’ complaints are not just over a nuisance that can be tolerated. Those who live near the park grounds have to endure three days of eardrum-busting music, rowdy concertgoers and everything that comes with both; the festival also has a two-month preparation period, where a section of Bayfront Park is blocked and the view spoiled with concert workers everywhere.
The new terms would allow Ultra to close off the park entirely for only 14 days. Portions of the park would stay open to the public for the rest of the month.
The proposal to bring the festival back was sponsored by Commissioner Keon Hardemon. The battle begins Thursday between the pro-Ultra commissioners and administrators, who will argue that the festival’s economic impact is too great to let go to another city and the long-suffering condo residents who not surprisingly cried foul and promised to fight:
“No to Ultra at Bayfront Park! This resolution, unveiled literally in the dead of night, is a slap in the face!” said Amal Kabbani, president of the Downtown Neighbors Alliance, in a statement published in the Miami Herald. “Not only is the City dismissing the health risks to residents caused by the noise from Ultra — a fact the city is well aware of — it is now also asking every single taxpayer in the city of Miami to pay for the security of this event.”
That anger is justified, especially if there’s no way to muzzle the noise. The city has shown that, ultimately, it’s unable to put on this concert without upsetting nearby residents and put the safety and security of both residents and concert goers first.
The disastrous first night of the most recent concert, in which thousands of music lovers had no transportation off Virginia Key is proof.
Bringing Ultra back to Bayfront would be the ultimate betrayal.
Let it go.