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The South Florida Roundup

Rental protection in Miami-Dade, F1’s journey to Miami Gardens, and the legacy of Michael Tilson Thomas

Darron Cummings

A “Tenant’s Bill of Rights” was passed in Miami-Dade County, offering protections to renters. The F1 Grand Prix made its way to Miami Gardens, with many residents opposed to its stay. Finally, Michael Tilson Thomas steps down as the New World Symphony’s artistic director.

Miami-Dade and Broward counties both took steps to help renters dealing with big, sudden big rent increases. Miami-Dade passed a bill of rights for renters and Broward now requires landlords to give more time before raising rents by more than 5%.

With housing costs increasing, so too have complaints about housing discrimination.

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According to an NBC6 investigation, housing discrimination allegations have been on the rise in Miami-Dade. In the first three months of 2022, 19 of the 82 complaints filed to the Miami-Dade Commission on Human Rights were housing-related. That’s almost 1 in 4 complaints.

Miami-Dade County has local ordinances that differ from the state when it comes to housing discrimination. In Florida, it is against the law to deny housing on the basis of sex, race and age. On top of these, it is also against county law to discriminate against sexual orientation, gender identity and source of income.

Phil Prazan, an investigative reporter with NBC6, said that the complaints coming faster into the commission, especially for discrimination against one’s source of income.

They spoke to a woman who lives in Miami Gardens with her parents. She believes an apartment complex discriminated against her because of her source of income.

“She applied to live in an apartment complex with a housing choice voucher. She did not get accepted into that apartment complex, and she believes that they did not want to take her because she got her money from a housing choice voucher from government help,” Prazan said.

The apartment complex, Horizon North Apartments, denies her claim of discrimination, but these are the types of complaints the commission looks into.

When looking for validity, the commission has to prove intent, Prazan said. The director of the commission said that most of the time what happens is a promise of mediation, where they bring both sides together.

Miami-Dade passed the county’s first “Tenant’s Bill of Rights,” which aims to give renters more legal protections without directly lowering rent or preventing the increase of rent.

The legislation makes it harder to screen out rental applicants and existing tenants based on past evictions, makes it easier for tenants to bill landlords for repairs in their dwelling, and protects against retaliation for reporting a dwelling’s disrepair to the government.

Prazan said that we are seeing the limits of what local governments can do to ease the rent increase squeeze. Since they are not allowed to directly control rent, all local governments can do is provide more information.

The other issue with housing affordability lies in the supply side and zoning, as well as the nature of the new guidelines being written. Michael Butler, a business and real estate reporter with the Miami Herald, said that a lot of these guidelines function to serve people that are already in homes.

“I don’t think the research shows that enough concern is being given towards people who lose their house.”
Phil Prazan, NBC6 Investigative Reporter

More people coming into Miami-Dade from out of state have bigger salaries and the ability to afford housing here, and Butler worries where current residents who lose their homes will go.

F1 comes to Miami Gardens amidst residents' opposition

Speed, agility, endurance and a fake marina. Formula 1 racing has come to Hard Rock Stadium, and will stay for the next 10 years.

It’s been quite a time coming. Originally, F1 was supposed to be in downtown Miami, but residents there objected to it. The Miami Herald’s Isaiah Smalls said they didn’t want the noise, air pollution and traffic associated with it.

"The county ended up moving it to the Hard Rock Stadium, where racing is in fact zoned. However, some Miami Gardens residents didn’t want it for the same reasons.”
Isaiah Smalls, Miami Herald Reporter

The move of F1 to Miami Gardens brought about various lawsuits. One focused on racial discrimination, where some residents alleged this move was adding to the history of Miami-Dade’s mistreatment of Black residents.

Miami Gardens is a predominantly Black city, and residents felt that this change was being forced upon them, Smalls said. This case was thrown out, however, and the next lawsuit focused on noise pollution.

Residents disagreed with the noise tests conducted by F1, alleging that they were not accurate, but this case was also thrown out. However, the presiding judge did tell residents that the lawsuit could continue after the race.

Francis Ragoo (right) participates in a protest outside of the Shirley M. Gibson City Hall in Miami Gardens, Florida, on Wednesday, April 14, 2021. Activists gathered in opposition of bringing Formula One racing to Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens.
Matias J. Ocner
Miami Herald
Francis Ragoo (right) participates in a protest outside of the Shirley M. Gibson City Hall in Miami Gardens, Florida, on Wednesday, April 14, 2021. Activists gathered in opposition of bringing Formula One racing to Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens.

Part of the move to Miami Gardens included attempts to show the benefits of F1 to the area. This was part of a $5 million community benefits package that includes priority hiring of Miami Gardens residents, the creation of a STEM program for children, and other resources.

However, this package did not fully dissuade residents and they still feel like the race is being forced upon them, Smalls said. He said some activists are still planning to fight against F1.

In the court cases, the final rulings were against the residents' pleas, allowing the races to go ahead. However, Smalls said the judge allowed the residents to conduct their own noise tests to truly see how loud the racers would be.

“If I’m quoting the judge correctly, essentially the reason why he wanted them to be able to take the test now is so that it could help them improve their argument when it comes time again,” he said.

Michael Tilson Thomas steps down as the New World Symphony’s artistic director

A generation ago, Michael Tilson Thomas helped put Miami on the map for orchestral music, training the next generation of musicians. He co-founded the New World Symphony and has been the artistic director from the beginning.

After 34 years filling the position, he picked up the baton as the orchestra’s artistic director one last time — before becoming artistic director laureate.

Alex Markow
New World Symphony

In March, Tilson Thomas announced and confirmed that he had an aggressive form of brain cancer. He said it was in check, but recurrences are more common with this form of brain cancer. He hopes to continue conducting, but will be taking a large step back from his day-to-day duties.

Marcelina Suchocka, a third-year percussion fellow with NWS, said she had wanted to be part of the program for a long time.

“I heard that musicians that had gone through there would have enormous success in their careers whether it was orchestra or beyond,” she said. “I just heard of so many percussionists in top orchestras that had gone through New World.”

For the fellows, especially the departing fellows such as Suchocka, it was an emotional time rehearsing with Tilson Thomas once more. She said that every comment he makes in rehearsal to anyone is always filled with so much knowledge.

Alex Markow
New World Symphony
Michael Tilson Thomas (center) stands with the New World Symphony Fellows on the second night of his final performance as artistic director.

WLRN Editorial Director Alicia Zuckerman has spent plenty of time with Tilson Thomas, interviewing him in different forms. She describes his style as one that comes from a place of passion and love for music.

“He loves music from so many different angles and so many different forms … in one interview he went deep into talking about The Beach Boys and what a big influence The Beach Boys were on him,” she said.

Zuckerman said his energy was youthful and was able to convey his passion to his audiences.

With all of the activity going on in Miami in the 80s, Tilson Thomas was integral to the explosion of the arts and culture at that time, said arts writer and former longtime Miami Herald arts critic Jordan Levin.

“What he brought with him besides his incredible talent, was that he was also really adventurous and in tune to the new."
Jordan Levin, Arts Writer and Former Miami Herald Arts Critic

She said if NWS had someone else, it would have been a very different organization.

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Natu Tweh is WLRN's Morning Edition Producer. He also reports on general news out of South Florida.