September 29, 2022

Miami has paused plans to dump more than 100 homeless people into an encampment next to the wealthiest zip code in America after an uproar from residents.

Fisher Island locals demanded authorities find another place to lump them after proposals were etched out for a series of ‘tiny homes’ on Biscayne Bay island.

A town hall Zoom chat saw scientists, water sports enthusiasts and homeless advocates burst into uproar at the idea late last week.

It comes after Miami-Dade’s Board of County Commissioners asked city officials to pitch ideas on how to mitigate its homeless population in the city, which has spiraled to more than 1,500.

The City Manager Art Noriega suggested the encampment on the northern tip of the Virginia Key island next to a sewage works and a biking trail as a solution.

But Miamians quickly shot down any proposal for the area amid concerns over tourism, safety and the welfare of the camp’s future residents, with it now put on hold.

The solution to Miami’s homeless problem echoed a similar idea earlier set out by Donald Trump to tackle the issue across the country.

Miami residents have erupted in fury at plans to dump more than 100 homeless people into an encampment next to the wealthiest zip code in America

Fisher Island locals demanded authorities find another place to lump them after plans were etched out for a series of ‘tiny homes’ on the small plot of land

A view of encampments near the sidewalk belonging to homeless people in downtown Miami on October 17, 2021

Pictured: A mockup of the dormitory structure tents proposed for the Miami project

The plan offers options to establish 50 to 150 rooms for homeless people through tents, with prices ranging from more than $719,000 to nearly $1.68 million

Island off Miami that is the wealthiest zip code in the US with a per capita income of $2.5million

In 2019 Fisher Island was named the wealthiest zip code in the United States, where the average income in 2015 was $2.5million per year. Located just a short boat ride away from Miami, an analysis conducted by Bloomberg shows that the highest per capita income of anywhere in the 50 states is the area whose zip code reads 33109.

Fisher Island, Florida is a 216-acre island that was once home to celebrities like media mogul Oprah Winfrey, actor Mel Brooks, retired tennis star Boris Becker, and Czech supermodel Karolina Kurkova. It is also a preferred landing spot for wealthy foreigners who buy up pricey real estate.

The relative wealth of residents of Fisher Island is staggering. Of all zip codes in the US, Fisher Island was the only one where more than half of all tax returns showed an income of at least $200,000. 

It has approximately 700 families who own either a home or an apartment, but only a small fraction of them are actually there at a given time, according to Forbes. That’s because Fisher Island is primarily a vacation haunt for the superrich, who only spend a few weeks or months at a time.

The stunning 216-acre manmade island is the wealthiest zip code in America

In February 2015, an unidentified buyer plunked down $35million for a seven-bedroom penthouse on the island, according to Mansion Global. The buyer, reported to be a Russian businessman, then put the property back on the market in August 2015 for $38.5million.

Eventually, the property, with 9,715 square feet and a rooftop deck of 6,798 square feet, sold in May 2017 for $35million, The Real Deal reported.

Anyone visiting the island will need to be prepared to shell out some big bucks.

The island is home to eight restaurants, among them several high-end steakhouses. All the restaurants charge residents’ expense accounts, so no cash changes hands, according to Forbes. 

There is also a nine-hole golf course, a bird-watching area, and 18 tennis courts that are made of the same grass as in Wimbledon and the same clay as in Roland-Garros. As if that weren’t enough, the island boasts of a mile-long private beachfront with sand that was especially imported from Bermuda. Every morning, workers rake it.

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Fisher Island as a home to multiple families is a relatively new concept. It was first created over 100 years ago as part of land reclamation projects in and around Miami Beach.

In 1925, William Vanderbilt II traded a luxury yacht for ownership of the island. After he died in 1944, the island was inherited by Edward Moore, a member of the Moore family which co-founded US Steel.

After Moore’s death, the island was sold to Gar Wood, a millionaire who invented hydraulic construction equipment. Wood’s family was the only one living on the island.

In 1963, Wood sold the island to a development group that included Richard Nixon, who would eventually become president in 1968.

It wasn’t until the 1980s that massive, widescale development on the island began in earnest. Since then, it has become one of the most expensive areas in which to buy real estate.  

The Zoom chat, with more than 200 residents in it when it was held on Thursday night, was flooded with criticism for the plan.

One said: ‘This will be a bigger mistake than the Metro Rail system.’ Another wrote: ‘Bad, Bad idea. Bunch of dummies.’

Another posted: ‘Are the homeless that are going to be housed illegal immigrants or are we first going to house homeless US Citizens?

‘If we’re putting tax dollars to not even take care of US citizens then we need to refocus altogether.’ Another said: ‘These ‘Tiny homes’ would be for rent on Airbnb.’

And one more added on Facebook after the event: ‘Well there goes Virginia Key. Imagine seeing a homeless encampment from your house.’

Director of marketing and operations at Virginia Key Outdoor Center Diana Perez said: ‘It’s kind of insane to get everyone in Miami to agree on something—and everyone agrees this is a terrible idea. People are really mad, man.’

The firm’s owner Esther Alonso said: ‘You’re taking the chronically homeless, shelter resistant population, bringing them to an isolated area, removing them from everything they know.

‘This is a city park. This is a park where families come, where children come. This is a place where the environment has rebounded.

‘It is a beautiful natural area; we’re next to a preserve. This is not the place for any development at all, whether it’s a homeless encampment or a hotel or any other type of large structure.’

The Miami Bike Scene group said: ‘We are strongly opposed to ANY type of Temporary Shelter Option (Tiny Home, Dormitory Structure, Modular Unit Structure, Folding Unit Structure) on Virginia Key.’

Along with complaints that the encampment would border the island’s bike trail, they argued it was two miles from the nearest bus stop and the island was filled with mosquitoes and vermin.

Meanwhile a petition set up to oppose the plan – which they claim has been ‘discretely approved’ has more than 13,000 signatures.

Miami’s proposal, published last Tuesday, details a plan to establish as many as nine large tents, which can hold up to 22 people, and a parking lot in the northern tip of the Virginia Key.

The plan offers a 50-room set-up within three of the tents, at $719,573. A plan for 100 rooms within five tents would cost $1million, and 150-room setup with the maximum allowed tents would cost more than $1.6million.

It would include air conditioning units for each tent, as well as bathrooms and showers for the occupants. Aside from the tents, the plan lays out options for tiny homes on the island tip that would be more ‘visually appealing’.

But officials warn the houses could be perceived as permanent dwelling by the homeless and reduce the changes of them leaving as the encampment is ultimately seen as a transitional home.

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Other options include setting up collapsible trailers or small sheds that can fit up to two beds. The city also has four other locations as options, including three parking lots, two of which are located near residential buildings.

Commissioner Ken Russell, who voted against the plan, told the Daily Beast: ‘It’s embarrassing for the city. It perpetuates this reaction from residents like ”not here, do it over there”.

‘It’s not only that this is the wrong location for this idea, but it’s the wrong solution.’ Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava also weighed in in a scathing memo to the Board of County Commissioners.

She said: ‘A shelter-only zone like the proposed ‘Transition Zone’ will exacerbate the bottleneck that is created when insufficient safe and healthy extremely affordable housing options are available for those experiencing homelessness.’

She also blasted the plan because Virginia Key was the first beach for just black people in Miami during the Jim Crow era.

A spokesman added ‘the Virginia Key plan is under the purview of the City of Miami…[and] Cava doesn’t oversee city business, nor can she veto city plans’. 

A town hall Zoom chat saw scientists, water sports enthusiasts and homeless advocates burst into uproar at the proposals late last week

Director of marketing and operations at Virginia Key Outdoor Center Diana Perez said: ‘It’s kind of insane to get everyone in Miami to agree on something—and everyone agrees this is a terrible idea. People are really mad, man’

The plan also has options for tiny homes on the island that would be more ‘visually appealing

Other options include setting up collapsible trailers that cost more than $11,000

Miami-Dade’s Board of County Commissioners will study a plan to create a homeless camp on the northern tip of the Virginia Key island (pictured) 

Last September, the city banned homeless encampments on public spaces (pictured)

Since the bill was passed, Miami officials reported more than 194 clean ups around the city, with 56 arrests at homeless encampments

Others are concerned it will ruin the well-heeled safe haven of Fisher Island, which would be in direct line of the homeless encampment.

Residents at the exclusive resort, where homes cost $3.2million and where locals earn about $2.5million a year, were tight-lipped when approached by a reporter but said: ”We’re aware of the plan, that’s for sure.’

The stunning 216-acre manmade island has played host to a raft of celebrities, including Oprah Winfrey, who used to own a $20million condo on the beachfront.

Others who are known to have had pads there include Yard House founder and former CEO Steele Platt, tennis star Caroline Wozniacki and former NBA center David Lee, Mel Brooks and Boris Becker.

To be a member a buyer has to fork out at least a seven-figure sum for one of the apartments, before paying a one-off $250,000 equity contribution and $22,256 in annual dues.

In 2019 Fisher Island was named the wealthiest zip code in the United States, where the average income in 2015 was $2.5million per year.

Located just a short boat ride away from Miami, an analysis conducted by Bloomberg shows that the highest per capita income of anywhere in the 50 states is the area whose zip code reads 33109.

Fisher Island, Florida is a 216-acre island that was once home to celebrities like media mogul Oprah Winfrey, actor Mel Brooks, retired tennis star Boris Becker, and Czech supermodel Karolina Kurkova. It is also a preferred landing spot for wealthy foreigners who buy up pricey real estate.

The relative wealth of residents of Fisher Island is staggering. Of all zip codes in the US, Fisher Island was the only one where more than half of all tax returns showed an income of at least $200,000.

It has approximately 700 families who own either a home or an apartment, but only a small fraction of them are actually there at a given time, according to Forbes. That’s because Fisher Island is primarily a vacation haunt for the superrich, who only spend a few weeks or months at a time.

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In February 2015, an unidentified buyer plunked down $35million for a seven-bedroom penthouse on the island, according to Mansion Global. The buyer, reported to be a Russian businessman, then put the property back on the market in August 2015 for $38.5million.

Eventually, the property, with 9,715 square feet and a rooftop deck of 6,798 square feet, sold in May 2017 for $35million, The Real Deal reported.

Anyone visiting the island will need to be prepared to shell out some big bucks. The island is home to eight restaurants, among them several high-end steakhouses. All the restaurants charge residents’ expense accounts, so no cash changes hands, according to Forbes.

Residents at the exclusive resort, where homes cost $3.2million and where locals earn about $2.5million a year, were tight-lipped when approached by a reporter but said: ”We’re aware of the plan, that’s for sure’

The stunning 216-acre manmade island has played host to a raft of celebrities, including Oprah Winfrey, who used to own a $20million condo on the beachfront

There is also a nine-hole golf course, a bird-watching area, and 18 tennis courts that are made of the same grass as in Wimbledon and the same clay as in Roland-Garros.

As if that weren’t enough, the island boasts of a mile-long private beachfront with sand that was especially imported from Bermuda. Every morning, workers rake it.

Fisher Island as a home to multiple families is a relatively new concept. It was first created over 100 years ago as part of land reclamation projects in and around Miami Beach.

In 1925, William Vanderbilt II traded a luxury yacht for ownership of the island. After he died in 1944, the island was inherited by Edward Moore, a member of the Moore family which co-founded US Steel.

After Moore’s death, the island was sold to Gar Wood, a millionaire who invented hydraulic construction equipment. Wood’s family was the only one living on the island.

In 1963, Wood sold the island to a development group that included Richard Nixon, who would eventually become president in 1968.

It was not until the 1980s that massive, widescale development on the island began in earnest. Since then, it has become one of the most expensive areas in which to buy real estate. 

It is not the first time the city has proposed setting up a homeless encampment on the island, as one of its commissioners, Joe Carollo, first suggested the concept last year.

The plan drew backlash when a bill he co-sponsored that banned homeless encampments and empowered police to arrest vagrants if they refused to be moved to shelters passed last September.

Since the bill was passed, Miami officials reported more than 194 clean ups around the city, with 56 arrests at homeless encampments.

It also reported 883 cases where homeless individuals were placed in shelters, as well as 13 referrals to mental health centers and 21 for substance abuse centers.

The details of the proposed plan for Miami’s homeless population came just as Trump put forth a similar solution for the nation’s homeless population.     

The former president, who lives in Florida at Mar-a-Lago, said: ‘Open up large parcels of inexpensive land in the outer reaches of the city. Create thousands and thousands of high quality tents.’

He said it was the ‘only way you’re going to remove the hundreds of thousands of people, and maybe throughout our nation millions of people,’ referring to the homeless. He added: ‘It can be done in one day.’

The plan was published on the same day former President Donald Trump suggested a similar concept nationwide during his Washington DC speech (above)

Trump called on homeless encampments with ‘high quality tents’ to be build on the outskirts of cities. Pictured: Homeless camps in Phoenix, Arizona