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Affordable housing woes, reflecting on George Merrick, and Wildlife Thursday: Flamingos in Florida

Courtesy Jerry Lorenz
Audubon of Florida

Miami’s public land, meant for affordable housing, helped developers profit. Also, a Black reverend shares his experiences with the complicated legacy left behind by the founder of Coral Gables. Plus, we look at the iconic flamingo.

On this Thursday, June 9, edition of Sundial:

Affordable housing, never built

Miami-Dade County has become the least affordable place in the country.

A new discovery is giving us insight into how we got into this current situation.

WLRN is here for you, even when life is unpredictable. Our journalists are continuing to work hard to keep you informed across South Florida. Please support this vital work. Become a WLRN member today. Thank you.

A recent audit shows that a lot of the public land that was supposed to go to affordable housing actually lined the pockets of developers. For years, the county gave or sold public land to developers to build affordable housing.

The audit shows that in many cases developers profited off that land — or just never ended up building affordable housing.

WLRN Reporter Danny Rivero joined Sundial to help us better understand what's come out of that audit.

You can find his reporting here.

You can listen to that full conversation, below:

Affordable housing, never built

A Reverend reflects on Coral Gables today

A few weeks ago we hosted the first of two conversations about the complicated and nuanced legacy left behind by the founder of the City of Coral Gables, George Merrick.

However, In the mid 1930s, Merrick advocated in favor of a proposed Dade County Commission, “Negro resettlement plan." He also argued in front of the Miami Board of Realtors that the removal of Black residents would be fundamental to achieving goals for the rest of Miami.

These are details documented in a Miami Hurricane article from July of 2020. Some students and faculty at the University of Miami have protested since.

His supporters say his contributions to the Black community are too often overlooked. They say he donated lands to the Bahamian immigrant community. Also, money for a Black school, according to a letter.

City Commissioners in Coral Gables voted unanimously last month to honor Merrick with a Founder's Day celebration.

The Black population of Coral Gables today is about 3%, compared to the county, which is 17% Black.

Reverend Nathaniel Robinson III spoke with Sundial about Coral Gables today. He is the senior pastor of Greater St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church in Coconut Grove.

"I think a person deserves, you know, justice …The truth is that Mr. Merrick did donate money and he did donate land. And so we cannot ignore that," he said. "At the same time, we cannot deny that he was a proponent for 'Negro removal,' is what they called it at the time – we can't ignore that."

Some of his congregants live in Coral Gables, and the church owns property in The City Beautiful: four shotgun houses on the eastern border of the city built by Bahamian descendants from from the Bahamas and from Key West.

Rev. Robinson went on to describe a solution he hopes could come out of a founder's day celebration in the future.

"There are Bahamian descendants whose hands actually built city hall. So maybe during those founder's days, you know, acknowledge the descendants of those people, or those people themselves. The contributions of Afro-Bahamian people," he said.

"We haven't come as far as we thought," he continued. "Continue to educate ourselves, and put ourselves in positions to have the conversations."

A Reverend reflects on Coral Gables today

After our first conversation on this topic, we did receive a statement from the President of the Historic Preservation Association of Coral Gables, Karelia Carbonell. It states in part:

"The Association admires Merrick for his altruism. He was an entrepreneur and a visionary; a millionaire who gave away most of his fortune before he lost the rest of it; a public servant and civic leader; an author and a poet. Building a city did not define him, poetry did."

She maintains that facts in the original interview were taken out of context, and feels that these conversations mischaracterize Merrick, as well as ignore positive contributions he made to the Black community.

We are in the process of fact-checking more of her statement and we will provide you with a report in the near future.

Wildlife Thursday: Think Pink 

For this Wildlife Thursday we looked more deeply into the history behind an animal that is so iconic to Florida.

They have long legs; they can fly; and they are known for their pink hues: flamingos.

WLRN’s Nancy Klingener brought us a detective story about these birds. It’s a case of the NOT so missing Florida flamingos.

By the way … the tall and gangly, pink iconic creatures are now officially considered native by Florida wildlife authorities.

The flamingo that helped researchers with this discovery is now the mascot of a local IPA beer out of the South Beach Brewing Company…his name is Conchy, and his legacy lives on.

Audubon Florida Director of Research, Dr. Jerry Lorenz, joined Sundial to lend his insight into these creatures.

You can hear the full conversation, below:

Wildlife Thursday: Think Pink

Caitie Muñoz, formerly Switalski, leads the WLRN Newsroom as Director of Daily News & Original Live Programming. Previously she reported on news and stories concerning quality of life in Broward County and its municipalities for WLRN News.
Leslie Ovalle Atkinson is the former lead producer behind Sundial. As a multimedia producer, she also worked on visual and digital storytelling.