Miami Worldcenter protesters: Black work matters

Protesters demand jobs at new Miami Worldcenter project

MIAMI - About two dozen protesters got loud Thursday, as they wanted Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez and the County Commissioners to listen to their demands.

They wore black T-shirts that read "Black Work Matters" and protested in and out of the Stephen P. Clark Government Center, 111 NW 1st St., in downtown Miami. There was drumming and there were speeches.

"When I look at what has happened in my community over my 34 years of living, it's really disgusting," Overtown resident Kandiz Lamb said.

Although there was some pushing between protesters and security, no one was injured. Miami-Dade County police officers collected the information of some of the protesters and escorted them out, a protester said.

"We want Wi-Fi," one shouted. "End segregation," another said. Then they started to chant, "Black Work Matters. Black Work Matters. I say black work, you say matters."

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Gentrification fears sparked the organized effort. The outrage in the Overtown community boiled late last year, after Miami commissioners approved tens of millions of dollars of tax rebates toward the Miami Worldcenter project, between Northeast Sixth and 11th Street and North Miami Avenue and Northeast Second Avenue.

There have been evictions and buildings have been demolished to move way for the 24-acre project. The protesters said city of Miami and Miami-Dade County officials were responding to Miami Worldcenter principal developer Nitin Motwani's requests for financial assistance, but not to theirs.

With the tax breaks comes a promise that the developer will create financial opportunity for the neighboring residents, who have struggled with poverty for generations. The developer was committed to paying construction workers at least $12.83 and electrical journeymen $30.11 hourly.

The $2 billion commercial project planners promised 10,000 construction jobs. Hundreds of applicants showed up to a developers' job fair at St. Agnes Episcopal Church, 1750 NW 3rd Ave., Wednesday. Overtown residents had priority and workers with a minor criminal history would be considered.

The city of Miami hired a consultant to oversee the job creation effort. The developer will be paying the consultant about $430,000 annually.

"It's a lot of money that's getting ready to come forward," Marquise Hardrick said. "We want to make sure that the black workers people of Overtown better and Overtown right now benefit."

Activist Phillip Agnew said that while many people attended this week's job fair, the promise of jobs is not enough.

"You can invite people to apply for a job. Giving them a job is a completely different thing," he said.

Commissioners were scheduled to vote July 14 on an ordinance granting the developers' petition to create a Community Development District, which comes with special discounts on taxes and assessments. It also includes means of providing financing, so that the developer doesn't have to pay for the construction upfront.

The legislation said the district "will constitute a timely, efficient, effective, responsive and economic way to deliver community development services in the area, thereby providing a solution to the county's planning, management and financing needs for delivery of capital infrastructure."

The developer already has the first phase of development approval from the city of Miami. It includes a 429-unit luxury residential building, the Paramount condominium, Luma at Miami Worldcenter and The Mall at Miami Worldcenter.

DEVELOPER'S STATEMENT

In an email to Local 10 News, a spokesperson for the Miami Worldcenter said local jobs are contractually guaranteed.

"Miami Worldcenter's developers have been working with Southeast Overtown/Park West CRA Chair Keon Hardemon, Miami-Dade District 3 Commissioner Audrey Edmonson and a host of local organizations to create a comprehensive community benefits package that prioritizes opportunities for the immediate neighborhood," wrote spokesperson Tadd Schwartz. "Key components of the package include: Guaranteed local participation for skilled and unskilled construction workers, subcontractors, vendors and professional service providers; and priority hiring from the immediate Overtown and Park West neighborhoods, followed by the five poorest ZIP codes in the city and county."

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