Mindfulness Missing in Heritage Park project

Long ago, at a relatively early age, I became responsible for the care, well being and support of my two disabled sisters and my Mom. My younger sister Patti, formerly a teachers’ aide in NYC day care centers who loved and dedicated her life to working with infants and toddlers, became stricken with an unknown degenerative condition in her mid twenties. Now, age 48, she is quadriplegic, requiring seven day per week in home nursing. My other sister Leslie has severe Fibromyalgia. In the mid-nineties, I moved them and my Mom to the Ocean View apartments in Sunny Isles. It was comfortable, secure, handicap accessible.

In 2005 it went condo and I bought two side-by-side units there for my family to live in. In 2009 the city of Sunny Isles announced that the empty lot in the front of our complex was being made into a parking garage and park. We had a couple of meetings with city officials to express our concern about the entrance way to our complex being shared as entranceway to the park. After that, we never heard about any meetings and in 2010, construction began. I was away for five months on a film job (Transformers 3) and when I came back around Christmas of 2010, the garage structure had been largely completed and the park area was being worked on. There was an unsightly array/lineup of traffic barricades and cones lining the length of the entranceway to our complex.

It did (and as of this writing still does not) provide safe passage for pedestrians to and from Collins Avenue. It is completely impassable and unsafe for wheelchairs, strollers and the disabled. The City Manager weeks ago promised this would be remedied within days, but now, weeks later, it is worse than ever. Even more outrageous is the roadway in the park area – it is very rough, uneven cobblestone, over which I nearly tripped several times trying to cross it on foot. It is impassable for wheelchairs and strollers. And the city has told me they’re going to pave the entranceway to our complex with the same unfriendly, very dangerous cobblestone!

When I tried speaking to Mayor Edelcup about modifying this, making it safer for elderly, disabled and otherwise impaired community members, he abruptly shut me down and told me he was not going to change it. He called me an “irritant.” He said there were many planning meetings, news of which was posted in advance. This is untrue. Our property manager will confirm that not one such notice was posted in our building. An ADA expert told me that the city is required to specifically reach out to disabled community members and make sure they have a chance to weigh in on city public space planning matters. THIS DID NOT OCCUR. Why, in this day and age, would a city not want to make things as safe as possible for all concerned, especially when a concerned citizen is pointing out a problem during the construction phase? Mayor Edelcup and the city have the opportunity to do the right thing here. Anything less smacks of greed and lack of care.

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About the Author

Robert G. Zuckerman
Robert Zuckerman is a leading photographer in the Hollywood Film Business. His latest film job was doing stills on Transformers 3. He is also author of the coveted book KINDSIGHT which uses photos and text together to illuminate the richness of every day life through random encounters and moments. He has spoken at schools across the country and this month begins a motivational speaking tour. He is disabled, is a long time caregiver, and a disability advocate.

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