Miami has renamed one of its Downtown waterfront parks after the city’s first-ever Latino mayor.
Museum Park, the 30-acre green space that neighbors Perez Art Museum and overlooks Port Miami, will now be known as Maurice A. Ferré Park. The city commission officially rededicated the park at a grand ceremony on Thursday after voting unanimously in December on the name change.
As Ferré, 83, now battles cancer, attendees praised him for making Miami into an internationally-renowned center.
“He’s the father of the new Miami,” said current mayor Francis Suarez, “a visionary who made Miami what it is today.”
Suarez added the city usually does not dedicate public spaces to people who are alive. But given his illness, he said city officials wanted Ferré to witness the celebration of his legacy.
Ferré was elected as the country’s first Puerto Rican mayor in 1973 after two years in the Florida House of Representatives. During his six terms at Miami City Hall, he initiated the redevelopment of Brickell Avenue and sought to make Miami a gateway to Latin America and a center for international trade.
He also served during a period of racial and social upheaval during the 1980s. In a Miami Herald op-ed in 2014, around the time of the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Mo., Ferré said he tried to transform the Miami Police Department from an “overwhelmingly white, Southern” body that used police dogs on Coconut Grove youth to a department that was more service-oriented.
But he said the city struggled to respond to the McDuffie race riots after the acquittal of a Miami-Dade police officer for the violent death of an African-American man. During a speech at the dedication on Wednesday, Ferré said inequality remains one of the Miami’s greatest problems.
“We must reclaim Abraham Lincoln’s, ‘We the people.’ We the people must be all the people,” he said, further noting that Miami has some of the worst economic divisions in the country.
The renaming coincides with city plans to add trees and paths in the park to make it more environmentally-friendly and resistant to flooding. During his own tenure, Ferre supported the purchase of bayfront property to preserve green space.
The former mayor said he now believes that sea-level rise and saltwater intrusion into groundwater aquifers are two of Miami’s most significant threats.
“We have to be concerned about the quality of life that is to come in Miami,” he said. “The distance between our noses and lungs and solid water is never more than a few feet.”