- Faith & Family
Owner vows, “It ain’t over”
The walls recently came tumbling down on a family-owned business, Greene Dream Shoe Repair [668 NW 62nd St.], a staple in Liberty City since 1961. The disgruntled owner, Tyrone Greene, along with his wife Paulette, children and grandchildren, watched in shock as a demolition team cleared the site where Greene’s father set up shop over five decades ago. Greene insists that he had a valid lease and was unaware that the building was to be destroyed.
“We woke up on Friday morning with a phone call and were told that they had taken a sledge hammer to my business,” he said. “We didn’t know they were coming and still had customers’ shoes in the shop slated for repair. Our family has been shamed and some people think we did something wrong as if we were criminals.”
Greene adds that he is speaking with attorneys and will not rest until “justice is served.”
“It ain’t going down like this,” he said. “If we sit back and do nothing, this will only be the beginning of wrong doing in Liberty City and injustice for Blacks. If I have to go all the way to Washington, D.C. for justice, then that’s what I’ll do.”
Structure deemed unsafe by City officials
It should be noted that Greene was not evicted from his business. Rather, the building was determined to be an unsafe structure by the City of Miami in a Nov. 29th ruling. But the building and land are owned by Miami-Dade County. Readers may recall that the site and properties adjacent to it have been long-slated for removal in order to make way for the Seventh Avenue Transit Village Project. Debates and arguments about the pros and cons of the Project have been in and out of the news since Oct. 2009. It was then that County Commissioner Audrey Edmonson first held a town hall meeting at the Caleb Center to present the conceptual design and to assuage the fears of some local residents. Now some three years later, it appears that developers will be able to move forward with approved construction plans. But was Greene offered a fair deal or was he given the shaft?
Edmonson makes it plain
“The County offered exactly what the federal government said we could in terms of relocation costs and the developer was going to pay the difference in rent so that he would be paying the same amount until he moved back,” Edmonson said. “But we were unwilling to pay him $5M or $2.5M — the two amounts that he first requested for a building that he was renting. We have worked with Mr. Greene but to no avail. But after the City determined that the structure was unsafe, there was no other decision to be made. I do not have the authority to delay a demolition order. For his safety and that of any customers, the building had to be torn down. By law he was given 30 days to vacate the premises. That time was up on Dec. 28th but I, along with my chief of staff, thought it would be more fair to wait until after the New Year.”
Edmonson says it was estimated that to repair the building, which housed other businesses as well, would have cost in excess of $600,000.
“We would have been wasting taxpayers’ money for a building that was set for demolition in 2014,” she said. “That was something that I simply could not approve.”
Karla Damian, Miami-Dade Transit media relations, agreed saying that “Mr. Greene was made aware of his rights and all rulings throughout the process.”
“The City of Miami Unsafe Structure Board made the call — the building was unsafe,” she said. “It’s just unfortunate that things came to this. We’ve been working with Mr. Greene for months and have offered multiple relocation options, including the option to move back once the project was completed. That offer, by the way, is still on the table.”
In terms of the relocation package, Damian said she could not quote the exact dollar amount because it is determined by “the differential in rent, moving costs and inventory costs but that Mr. Greene had not decided where he wanted to relocate the business.”
Will Greene fight or move on?
Greene says it’s wrong that a landmark in the community has been destroyed and disputes the decision that the building was unsafe.
“The judge said I could stay there until May 2014 when the lease was set to expire,” he said. “There was nothing wrong with the building. But they wanted to get me out of there. The police and demolition crew came like robbers in the night to kill and destroy my family’s dream. They wanted to make the statement that they were Goliath but remember what happened to him.”
But not everyone in the community supports Greene’s stance.
“It’s not just about the family business and that history — the whole building looked like hell and it was time for it to be torn down,” said Rev. Nathaniel Wilcox, executive director, P.U.L.S.E. “It’s time for the 7th Avenue corridor to be built up and while Tyrone and I are friends, I think that he was holding the community back.”
Retha Boone, director, M-DC Black Advisory Board, says she empathizes with Greene.
“That business was an institution and I know it was difficult to see one’s life dream be torn down,” she said. “But just because the building is gone doesn’t mean the business has to go. Our board will be meeting on this issue and we hope that Mr. Greene will remain interested in seeking ways to keep his business going.”
By D. Kevin McNeir