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Biscayne Skate Park: Dead on Arrival?

The City of Miami could be a skateboard mecca. Some say it already is. After years of work by local skateboarders, savvy citizens and dedicated politicians (Sarnoff), the Biscayne Skate Park still has not broken ground. The land just sits there, empty, next to Temple Israel. This historic religious center is also the temple of choice for some vocal opposition. Among them are those who claim active sports leads to marijuana consumption, the unquenchable desire to rob your neighbors and some new ability to do so (maybe all that exercise?), an addiction to loud music that cannot be turned down (magic volume buttons and kids who aren’t afraid of noise citations?). It all seems so bizarre.

Keep your eye on this one. Criminal.

If you ever spend time in Downtown Miami on the weekends, you’ll see kids from as far away as Stuart who come here with their friends to skate. While it is cool to see them do tricks, you might expect a business owner to freak out at the threat of possible lawsuits and the obvious wear-and-tear to entryways, plants, ADA-required ramps and so on. Usually, taxpaying business owners have more sway in local politics but here we have some non-taxpaying folk, with an already stated disconnect from reality, fighting the use of public space by the public.

South Florida has a tradition of wealthy neighbors who want control of their local neighborhood and streets without the responsibility of paying to maintain them. The responsible among them simply give in and pay for those streets (Bay Point). Others think that just because they have so much money, they should be allowed to dissuade all politicians from providing equal access to the parks or roads everyone pays taxes for. (See bike lanes on Euclid for just one recent example, the failure of Baylink or innumerable subway extensions as others)

A movement is growing in Facebook land to do something about this and GET OUR SKATEPARK! (Full disclosure: I live right down the street and passing by the unused space regularly is just sad. Plus, I’m one of those ‘Skateboarding is not a crime’ people.) We spoke to organizer Seth Levy, who says they are going round the neighborhood with petitions next week. He seems convinced that most neighbors are already in support of a public park and from my own anecdotal experience, I think he’s right.

For more information, visit them on Facebook here or check them out on Twitter (twitter.com/biscaynesk8park)

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47 Comments

  1. Michelle says:

    I hope this park happens, it would be such a great thing for the community!

  2. kyle says:

    This park should really be built. I’m not a skateboarder, but any park is completely welcomed, and I think the skateboarders would love something like this. Plus, it would bring yet another great amenity to Downtown.

    Would the Jews rather have these kids get drunk and/or do drugs at home, than be outside exercising? Have they not seen child obesity rates? This is a great proposal and I hope it’s done ASAP.

  3. Felipe Azenha says:

    This skatepark is needed urgently. Although I have not been on a skated board in over 20 years, this is a great investment in our youth. I can attest that kids come as far away as West Palm and Boca to downtown Miami in order to skate board. I have personally taken the time to talk to these kids. They take Tri Rail and then hop on the Metro Rail to enjoy the skate boarding Mecca of South Florida. A proper skate park is long overdue in Miami. Keep up the great work Seth and keep pushing; you have found an ally in Transit Miami. We will be following this very closely.

  4. John says:

    I support the construction of this skate park. Miami is a nice city but lacks a lot of things

  5. Mike Moskos says:

    I wonder why they picked this particular location, other than it is basically dead land. I really believe the skateboarding population would be better served if this park were sitting right next to a MetroRail stop (not a long skateboard ride away). Yes, there are buses that come by, but next to a MetroRail station is a better place. Is there a need for a skateboarding park, absolutely. I just think a better location could be found.

  6. Kitherto says:

    Did you ask Seth why he bought land right next to the park while he served on a city committee trying to get the park to happen?

  7. Kathryn Moore says:

    I didn’t ask Seth that question but he volunteered the response. He said he always dreamed of living across the street from a skate park. I spoke to Marc Sarnoff months ago and others who worked to make this happen – I don’t think anyone thought it would take this long and who wouldn’t want to live in this neighborhood, especially if you thought it could get a skatepark?

  8. Kitherto says:

    I always lived of living across the street from a property that I control through a city board that I serve on. It’s not a conflict in the least bit.

  9. Cost out of control says:

    Perhaps the cost could be scaled down to $500,000 and not the $2 mil estimate from a City department? Miami is facing a $100 mil deficit.

  10. Seth Levy says:

    Kitherto, I completely understand your concern but let me help ease your mind. When I came on board with this project, the location had already been selected. In fact I had only been in that neighborhood once before to visit Temple Israel. When I went to go evaluate the location, I was extremely concerned with the row of bank owned crack houses that were falling apart. According to a neighbor, the only owner occupied house on that street or the next, these buildings were being used to sell drugs and the local police wouldn’t do much about it. The first thing I thought was that, even if the skateboard park was very well built, if I had kids I would never allow them to use the facility and be exposed to that. In exploring the situation further, I found that the only way to reasonably fix the problem was to tear down the houses and since the bank was not willing to do so, I decided to take matters into my own hands and took the opportunity to fulfill my dream of living across the street from a skatepark. I was a strong proponent for building the best skatepark possible before owning the land and now that I do, it has only pushed me to fight harder. That being said, if a better location is found and the project can easily be shifted there, I would continue to support the project with the same vigor because most importantly what I want is to have the best skateboard park for the community. Furthermore, it is not uncommon for neighbors of a proposed project to be involved with it on an official or unofficial level. If fact, I feel that as a property owner in that neighborhood, I should have a greater say than someone who lives on the other side of town because it will effect my daily life and my property value.

    About the money issue, Cost out of control, the money is coming out of the Community Redevelopment Agency’s fund and not from the city itself. This is money that has been set aside specifically for this kind of project and if it is not used in this way it will not go towards the police force, fire department other agencies that rely on the city’s budget. Additionally, the money is not just going to build the skateboard park itself, in fact, a large chunk of it is going towards the construction of a new administrative building for the parks and recreations department, landscaping and lighting for the whole park.

    If you have any more questions or concerns, please post them here unless you want to do so more privately. My email address is Seth@MiamiSkaters.com

  11. Kathryn Moore says:

    The Miami Herald today published an article about this ongoing issue. You can read it here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/07/04/1714790/temple-members-hope-to-put-bump.html

    Seth has been an active citizen on improving skating and the area around where he has property, including serving on volunteer boards working towards these same purposes.
    Seth’s investment in a skate shop adjacent to this park give him a particular benefit? Almost certainly - it benefits all neighborhood property owners. The purpose of spending CRA dollars is fundamentally to do just this - raise local property values and attract additional investment in the community.
    It is also why the park is planned for this CRA site, as opposed to another potentially closer to Tri-Rail. Hopefully, its close proximity to metrorail, which connects to Tri-Rail, will be almost as ideal.

    Thank you everyone for your comments.

  12. CRA overspends says:

    The first estimates were for $500,000, maybe $1 mil.

    Where did the $2.2 mil come from?

    CRA money is supposed to provide seed money for new businesses and properties that will contribute to the tax base. Government owned properties do not pay taxes. They provide no new tax dollars to the CRA.

    Should the taxpayers be forced to pay a fortune to build a few bathrooms?

    Can’t the CRA just set up a few ramps on a vacant lot? Why waste a fortune?

  13. steven says:

    Seth, I think it’s really admirable that you’re pushing for the skatepark, and I support you 100%. I think it’s a great asset for the community and it’s sorely needed. I really hope it gets built.

  14. Seth Levy says:

    CRA overspends, that total is for EVERYTHING involved at Biscayne park, not just the skateboarding aspect. It includes the new administrative buildings for the Parks and Rec department, new lighting for the park, landscaping, etc. The skateboard park portion of it won’t be nearly 2.2 million dollars, in fact it comprises of less than half that amount.

    “Can’t the CRA just set up a few ramps on a vacant lot? Why waste a fortune?”

    This is the problem. This is what the city tried to do in Coconut Grove and failed miserably. A skateboard park needs to accommodate the local skateboarding community, not just be put in place for the cops to say to kids, go skate that crappy little park down the street. Even at this size, the skateboard park will likely only hold around 100 skateboarders MAX (the average park holds around 50) and there are thousands in Miami. Building a few ramps would be the equivalent of building a wall with a mini half tennis court outline on the other side and say, happy now tennis players?

  15. Howard M says:

    “Can’t the CRA just set up a few ramps on a vacant lot? Why waste a fortune?”

    Now there is someone that doesnt skateboard… If you build junk like that kids will never go. Now you are REALLY wasting money.

    Thats like putting a string across a dirt lot and it a tennis court. seriously…

  16. money money money says:

    Whats messed up is not money the CRA spends, but the money they don’t. We live in the CRA and they are supposed to do nothing but spend money to attract more money. If you don’t live in the CRA, then why do you get to tell us we dont deserve it? It’s a state mandate! Who cares if its a skatepark or something else? Finally they’re doing something to bring more people to our businesses.

  17. My name is Kurt Massinello CEO of the Grom-O-Rama Championship Skateboard Contest Series and we hold Skateboard contest at skateparks Throughout The east coast for the 15 and under age groups. Skateboarding has become todays baseball-Soccor etc Its Not the Outlaw Renegade Sport that Some suggest it to Be take a look at The picture Gallerys and video from our most recent contest held at The town of Jupiter Community Skate Park Notice all the Smiling Kids and Parents Do they look like Trouble Makers?Remember This is for The Kids “OUR FUTURE”

  18. Who will pay? says:

    Who will pay?
    Will any of the 15 and under crowd pay?

    Why does the proposed park need Park and Rec administration buildings and an on-site store? Why does it need a $1 mil bathroom? The City is broke.
    Who would staff the proposed park?

  19. Seth Levy says:

    Who will pay:

    1. Go to a pay to play skateboard park, Naples for instance. You will see that a majority of the participants are under the age of 16.
    2. Have you seen the parks and recreation administrative building? They are literally operating out of trailers in an empty lot. This park has the space for the building and the neighborhood has requested a buffer between them and the skateboarding portion of the park, so it just makes sense to put it there.
    3.Staffing hasn’t been decided upon yet.

  20. Really?
    Do The 15 and under Crowd pay “No but the Parents Do”
    I am a parent of a 12 year old skater and almost everyday I Drive my son and friends to a skatepark Paying for Both of our entry fees to skate plus Drinks and Snacks from the consessions throughout the day and lunch at a local Restauant in the area. and if need gas from a local gas station YEA WE PAY!

  21. Who has $2.2 mil? says:

    Who has $2.2 mil?
    And who will pay for the land?
    Who will pay for the site cleaning?

    Isn’t the City of Miami facing a $100 mil deficit?

  22. Seth Levy says:

    There is a budget set aside for the development of certain neighborhoods in order to encourage their development. The Omni redevelopment fund was founded in 1996 and that is where the money is coming from. It is not coming from police funding, the school board, transit, etc. The land is owned by the City’s parks and recreation department and has been for decades. Skateboard parks are generally maintenance free, especially when there are no trees that drop leaves around the area. The only cleanup required will be due to trash and that will be the responsibility of the skateboarders, a responsibility they will undertake if it means the closure of the park.

  23. Howard M says:

    WAKE UP MIAMI!!! ITS OVERDUE!!!

    http://www.houstontx.gov/parks/lee-joepark.html

  24. Seth Levy says:

    Just to give some idea of what the layout of everything may look like. Please note that, while everything is drawn to scale, this is just a rough sketch and may not reflect the final layout. It is based on the design criteria report. http://goo.gl/IkrE

  25. $2.2 mil? says:

    Aren’t Community Redevelopment Agencies required to spend money
    to encourage tax paying businesses?

    To increase the values of taxable property?

    Parks do not pay taxes. Parks employee few people.

    Shouldn’t money be spent to grow taxpaying businesses on taxable property?

  26. Seth Levy says:

    2.2 mil?: I have worked on 10 other skateboard parks in my life, and in each case the neighborhood property values went up and local businesses saw a dramatic increase in business. In fact, in one of the locations, a brand new shopping center went up across the street from the brand new park. Construction started 3 months after the park was opened.

  27. Firemen want $400,000 per year salaries says:

    When City of Miami firemen get paid $300,000 to $400,000 per year each PLUS massive pensions there is not much left for the taxpayers.

    (By the way, 85% of the firemen live in Broward County, Kendall, anywhere but within the City that pays them…)

  28. Howard M says:

    I have 5 friends that are firemen and 2 of them skateboard. They currently make much less than $100,000 so there is no way those numbers are going to happen.

  29. To Howard M says:

    To Howard M,
    Your friends are either firemen for less than a year or they do not understand their pay and benefits. Or maybe they are too embarrassed to tell you what they really make.

    There are firemen making $300,000 to $400,000 per year. Those firemen do not skateboard. They might be busy driving their taxpayer paid SUV’s using taxpayer paid gas to Broward County. Often they count the days until they can start collecting their $300,000 per year pensions. Pensions paid by the taxpayers of Miami.

    You want to learn why Miami is facing a $100 Mil deficit?

  30. Howard M says:

    One is 8 years and the other is over 10 years. I’d like to see where you get your numbers. Or better yet they would like to see. The two that skateboard are 40 and 43. But now you have changed your tune from firemen to “some firemen” and yet again your post title says firemen “want $400,000″. Want and make are two very different things. Any way you word it you are way off base. I want to make $400,000 too but you are very wrong.

    http://www.indeed.com/salary/q-Firefighter-l-Miami,-FL.html

    Regardless we are getting off topic. If you really want something to oppose try the billion dollar tunnel project at the port. Skateboarding does a lot of great things for kids and rivals traditional sports. Why you would anyone would oppose that is beyond me.

  31. Everyone wants what taxes will buy says:

    Everyone wants tax money for something they want but no one wants to pay taxes.

  32. To Howard M says:

    To Howard M,

    Ask the firemen to show you their W2’s.

    If they show you their W2’s you will see the massive pay. But wait, the W2’s do not show the massive pension benefit. Add the W2 income to a massive pension and that is why Miami is facing a $100 Mil deficit.

    You prefer $2.2 mil for skateboarding or do you want to fire 7 to 9 firemen?
    Your choice.

  33. Seth Levy says:

    That is an unfair question because if the money does not go to the skateboard park, there is NO WAY for it to go to the fire department or any other city department. It is the Skateboard park or its going to go to build something else that the city already has.

  34. To Seth Levy says:

    You have a choice. Use Tax Increment Financing i.e. CRA tax money to invest in new or growing taxable businesses on taxable property to create taxpaying jobs and to increase the tax base OR do you want the taxpayers to spend over $1 mil on bathrooms and $2.2 mil on a skateboard park on off-the tax-roll property?

    Real jobs vs. another park the City cannot maintain?

    Pretend you earned the $2.2 Mil.

    (By the way, 85% of all City revenues go to pay salaries and benefits.)

  35. Seth Levy says:

    Please, if you are going to talk about the effects a skateboard park will have on a community, do some research. So many people are making assumptions that are unfounded its getting ridiculous.

    First off, your facts are off. The 2.2 million dollars is not just for a skatepark, in fact the skatepark itself is most likely going to ring in around $750,000. The rest of the money is going to a desperately needed parks and rec administration building, lighting for the park, and extensive landscaping (don’t get me started on that…)

    Also, the city is NOT going to be responsible for maintaining or managing the park. They are most likely going to be renting the space out to an outside firm to manage it and in return the firm will be able to sell skateboard equipment or whatever. This will bring in tax revenue through the rent payments and a percentage of sales.

    Now, onto your main point. Government intrusion on business, even helping failing ones, is an awful proposition. See how well that bailout worked? I have worked for the CRA to help businesses back on their feet and it doesn’t really do much. CRA money that improves the amenities provided to the community is a proven way to help the entire community, not just the hurting businesses. A skateboard park, like any other park amenity, increases traffic to local businesses, increases property value, and stimulates entrepreneurship in the field. At every single other park I have worked on the local businesses have thrived and the neighboring properties went up in value. In fact in one place where we built a park, a brand new shopping center popped up across the street from it with retail stores, a convenience store a couple restaurants. Other than the skateboard park, nothing new was added to the immediate area to cause this complex to be built.

  36. To Seth Levy says:

    Please disclose that you bought up property across the street from the proposed skateboard park and that you hope to profit i.e. benefit from the expenditure of taxpayer money.

  37. Seth Levy says:

    I have been open about that from day one. As mentioned before, I purchased the property well after it was selected. I will actually be better off financially if the park isn’t built because turning the land into a section 8 apartment complex would be much more profitable than an office that provides lessons to a skateboard park.

    But lets look beyond that, assuming you are the same person that wrote ‘To Seth Levy’ above, you have a problem when the CRA money isn’t used to help local businesses that are failing and you have a problem when the CRA money is used to open a park that will indirectly cause a skateboard related business that employs people to open? Why should CRA money go to help a failing business instead of spark the beginning of new ones? Are the taxes I pay less valid than others?

  38. To Seth Levy says:

    Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) money should only be used to support successful businesses and successful projects that will add meaningful private sector jobs. The CRA money should be used to help businesses and projects and properties so they can pay more taxes.

    The goal is to help the private sector, not create more public sector overhead.

    By the way, if a church or a business is failing because its customers do not support it then let it fail. No more welfare for connected insiders. Bailouts are stupid.

    If someone in the private sector wants to build a skateboard park then let them put up the money. Let them buy a site and build a facility. They take the risk and they get 100% of the rewards.

  39. Seth Levy says:

    Based on that logic, the city shouldn’t build any parks. Tennis courts, basketball courts, soccer fields, dog parks, etc should all be made private, making it so only the middle-upper class can use the facilities. Sounds like you support gentrification more than anything else, push the poor people out of the city.

    If a skatepark is such a bad idea, why are cities all over the country building them? Atlanta is going to have 10 skateparks by 2012, NYC is going to have built 6 in 2010 alone. If they didn’t do anything to help the community, why are all these thriving cities opening them?

  40. Howard M says:

    Add baseball fields, community pools and waterslides, parks with empty land and a couple of picknick tables, Childrens playgounds, walking parks, Camping parks, bicycle lanes, ect… ect.. ect… And most of those things dont even get used but they get trash pickup and lawn maint. paid for and someone got paid to build them.

    There are great skateparks in every major city and even smaller ones in Florida with the exception of Miami.

  41. Howard M says:

    Since you are the expert on Firefighter pay you show me a W2 to support your own unsubstantiated claim…

  42. $100 Mil deficit says:

    Folks,

    The City of Miami lost $55 Mil last year. The City is projected to lose $100 Mil this year. The year after that is even worse.

    Do you think money grows on trees?

  43. Howard M says:

    We need this park!!! Go fight the billion dollar port tunnel project…

  44. Manny Diaz wanted the port tunnel says:

    The Port Tunnel will cost the CRA about $50 Mil. That means $50 Mil that will not be available to help businesses within the CRA grow.

    Manny Diaz wanted the tunnel and he demanded the $3+ Bil baseball stadium. $3+ Bil that cannot be spent on tens of thousands of other businesses.

    Maybe the Marlins can pay for a skateboard park? “Forbes” calls the Marlins the most profitable team in Major League Baseball.

  45. Howard M says:

    Look at any Marlins home game and you will see empty stands. Great waste of billions. By percentage of money invested there will be more people at the skatepark.

  46. Go ahead, spend someone else's money says:

    Everybody wants someone else to pay for things they want.

    Who owns the land the temple uses for parking?

  47. Seth Levy says:

    The City of Miami owns the land and basically gives it to them for exclusive use.

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