FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - A former Water Taxi employee claims he was fired after posting a video criticizing a project that could force a historic rain tree in Fort Lauderdale to move.
Asi Cymbal wants to move the 80-foot high, 130-foot wide tree that was planted near the New River in the 1920s for the Marina Lofts, his planned high-rise condominium project.
"We're here to celebrate Earth Day, [and] celebrate our magnificent rain tree," Cymbal said at an event Monday.
The plan to move the tree has its critics, including Chris Brennan, who posted a video to YouTube criticizing it in February.
"I'd been a very good employee up until I filmed this video," he said.
A few weeks later, Brennan was fired from his job at Water Taxi, which leases from Cymbal.
"Asi Cymbal saw it, called the owner of Water Taxi and said handle it," said Brennan.
"I'm saddened for anyone to lose their job," said Cymbal.
Cymbal said he never told Water Taxi owner Bill Walker to fire Brennan.
"I was just curious whether that person was employed by the Water Taxi," said Cymbal. "That (the firing) has nothing to do with me. It's between an employer and an employee."
Walker said Cymbal didn't order him to fire Brennan, but conceded the firing came after the phone call from Cymbal and that it was because Brennan's stance on the rain tree conflicted with the "company's future."
"They had no problem whatsoever until Asi Cymbal contacted him about it," said Brennan, who now works as a bartender.
Bob Brennan, Cymbal's hired arborist (unrelated to Chris Brennan), said the tree will survive a move to a nearby lot.
"I'm not going to put a 43-year career on the line to let this baby die," he said. "It's not going to happen."
A petition protesting the tree's move has nearly 2,000 signatures.
The city commission is holding a special meeting next month to discuss the rain tree and the Marina Lofts project.
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