MIAMI – For the first time Wednesday, survivors of the Surfside condo collapse shared in court how they want the land to be used.
Several condo owners stood before Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Michael A. Hanzman to convince him to let a developer build a new building on the site of the Champlain Towers South because they want to keep living there.
The condo owners, however, are divided on what to do with the land, which is worth an estimated $100 million dollars.
Some want a memorial on the site to honor the victims.
Others say the two options are not mutually exclusive, that you can have a new condo building there and a memorial.
“It’s an opportunity to live in an area like that that doesn’t come around very often and to replace it now for a lot of these owners will be almost mission impossible, considering where home prices are, especially beachfront property,” said Oren Cytrynbaum, who bought a condo unit at Champlain Towers South years ago because it was spacious and right on the ocean. “I mean, that was taken away from a lot of people and that’s why a lot of people feel they would like their home back.”
Another resident, speaking in court by Zoom, had a different opinion.
“That is a gravesite. I left that in my mind that evening saying that is a gravesite,” she said. “I saw with my two eyes the pancake. I opened the stairwell door and I heard a woman crying for help that I couldn’t help in pitch darkness.”
[ALSO SEE: READ STORIES ABOUT THE VICTIMS]
As of Wednesday night, the county said that 97 deceased victims have been identified from the June 24 collapse, including 96 victims recovered from the rubble and one victim who passed away in the hospital. Authorities believe there is one victim not yet identified.
Victims and families who suffered losses in the tragic collapse of the 12-story condominium will get a minimum of $150 million in compensation initially, Hanzman said Wednesday.
That sum includes insurance on the Champlain Towers South building and the expected proceeds from sale of the property.
“The court’s concern has always been the victims here,” the judge said, adding that the group includes visitors and renters, not just condo owners. “Their rights will be protected.”
Right now, the court is considering selling the land so the money can be used to pay compensation to survivors who lost their homes and to family members of victims who were killed or injured.
The purpose of Wednesday’s two-hour court hearing was for the judge to get an update on how much money is available to pay the victims.
The court-appointed receiver Michael Goldberg said the condo board had about a million dollars cash on hand. There are about $50 million in insurance proceeds, and about $2 million dollars in compensation has already been paid to the victims.
“My job and your job is to get these victims whatever they are legally entitled to,” Judge Hanzman said. “They own the land, they are legally entitled to its fair market value. Period.”
Sky 10 video taken Wednesday shows how different the collapse site looks now the rubble has been cleared out.
Some of the debris is being saved in a warehouse as evidence for the investigation into how the building collapsed. The rest is being stored in a lot so survivors and families can go through it at a later date to retrieve their belongings.