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Concerns, tensions rise as Hialeah considers annexing parts of historic Brownsville

Residents arrive for the press conference to inform the public about Hialeah’s plan to incorporate the Brownsville industrial area on Monday, April 24, 2023 at Brownsville Church of Christ. The area includes industrial warehouses and also houses and the church.
Alie Skowronski askowronski@miamiherald.com
/
The Miami Herald
Residents arrive for the press conference to inform the public about Hialeah’s plan to incorporate the Brownsville industrial area on Monday, April 24, 2023 at Brownsville Church of Christ. The area includes industrial warehouses and also houses and the church.

A historically Black community renowned for hosting icons like Dr Martin Luther King Jr and Muhammad Ali in the days when South Florida was segregated could be carved up in a plan to expand the City of Hialeah.

The city's commissioners are discussing a proposal to annex a section of Brownsville, in unincorporated Miami-Dade County. They argue the move could help Brownsville while also expanding Hialeah’s tax base and creating more jobs.

But many residents — who could get to vote on the matter if it moves forward — appear to oppose by the plan. As tensions and concerns rise, WLRN's Tim Padgett discussed the matter with the mayor of Hialeah and a Brownsville community leader on the latest South Florida Roundup.

The portion of Brownsville the City of Hialeah is looking to annex is only about a quarter of a square mile. Sparsely populated, it holds more industrial than residential real estate, with commercial warehouses and semi-truck lots as well as CSZ and Tri-Rail facilities.

Hialeah Mayor Steve Bovo believes that area is underserved and could benefit from Hialeah’s growing economic activity. Hialeah is growing, and expansion could help the city, he said.

“The conversation obviously for the city of Hialeah, which is a city right now that's in a vortex of a lot of growth and a lot of economic activity, was obviously [that] you want to keep your tax rate as low as possible,” he said. “And the way you do it is by, you know, expanding your industrial base, your commercial base."

However, many residents have expressed concern about this plan. Kenneth Kilpatrick, president of the Brownsville Civic Neighborhood Association, fears that it may hurt the economic potential of Brownsville.

“The amended plan calls for an annexation of all the warehouse districts in Brownsville," he said. “ The whole area has been a part of the Model City Neighborhood Revitalization Strategy area for many decades … So we've been waiting a long time to really take advantage of all of the area's assets and the warehouse districts.”

He also explained that this expansion may pose a threat to the historical integrity of the community.

Brownsville is home to the Hampton House and Georgette’s Tea Room, places where Black icons and civil rights leaders stayed at during the segregation days. Even if performing in Miami Beach they would have to cross the causeway every evening and sleep in the black communities.

Mayor Bovo said the city does not want to ruin or trample on the rights of residents in Brownsville.

“I've been working the phone and reaching out because I want them to understand that the city is not going to do anything that would somehow in any shape or form affect the integrity and the history of Brownsville,” he said.

WLRN’s government accountability reporter Joshua Ceballos said that if the proposed area for annexation has more than 250 registered voters, then it needs to go to a referendum, and the residents of that area need to vote and approve the annexation.

If the city and county approve this plan, it will go to a local referendum.

“Right now they're just in discussion periods, they haven't really carved out the exact map that they want,” he said. “The map that they have right now includes 259 registered voters in that area, but the map is subject to change.”

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