Letters to the Editor

The challenges and rewards of Village West

While we all strive for an improvement in the quality of life, the challenges of Village West in District 2 seem to be greater and more systemic than those in other areas. To address the ongoing violence in the neighborhood, we pushed for the establishment of a police substation on Grand Avenue. To address the physical condition of the neighborhood, we organized intensive clean-up efforts with the departments of Solid Waste and Code Enforcement.

Green space and recreation areas were given top priority with the installation of a state-of-the-art turf playing field and track at Armbrister Park. There are plans to refurbish the pool at Virrick Park, the only public swimming pool in the southern and central part of the district. These are only changes to the physical surroundings.

I believe the most significant investment that I have made is in the young people in Village West and I hope to prove that this investment will continue to give back for years, if not decades, to come.

As part of an ongoing multifaceted strategy for the neighborhood, our office has dedicated a tremendous amount of time, talent and resources in Village West. Since September 2013 there has been $5,728,391 in infrastructure, human services, grants and housing dedicated to this historic 15-block area.

The START Program and the One Grove Foundation have proven to be exceptional community partners for youth programming as well as Coconut Grove Cares, St. Alban’s Child Enrichment Center and the Thelma Gibson Health Initiative.

Recently, both the city of Miami’s fire and police departments have launched intensive mentorship and training programs focused on middle and high school students. Together with the city of Miami Parks Department we are collectively ensuring that all students in Village West have an afterschool home.

After privately raising $70,000 to give 41 middle and high school students from the neighborhood the chance to visit Washington, D.C., for Close Up, it was rewarding to hear about their experiences and their renewed commitment to the community and themselves.

Recently, we heard from the students as they conducted a mock debate on the Stand Your Ground law and discussed how gun violence has affected their lives. We will honor the 21 donors from the private sector who ultimately made this trip possible.

My work isn’t complete in Village West, and we are looking forward to continuing to support these young leaders in fulfilling their civic responsibilities.

Marc D. Sarnoff, commissioner, District 2, Miami