FORT LAUDERDALE’S POINCIANA PARK
Angry citizens urge
City Commission to restore
their beautiful median
Secret deal turns publicly-owned
green space into ‘private’ parking lot
No notification to neighbors!
The First Christian Church — armed with a “secret”
city permit issued without public input — has marred an attractive
city-owned median by putting 14 asphalt parking spaces on it.
Drivers entering the Poinciana Park neighborhood now find themselves
staring at a row of car butts instead of a beautiful green vista.
Citizens are fighting to undo this terrible precedent, which has citywide
implications. They want the asphalt removed and their beautiful green
space restored. This growing anti-asphalt effort is supported by The
Council of Fort Lauderdale Civic Associations; Jeryl Madfis, president
of the South Andrews Business Association, the Poinciana Park Civic
Association, and others.
The City Commission will examine the issue on Oct. 19 at 1:30.
The city can restore the median and eliminate grounds for a lawsuit
by paying church elder and director Hamilton Forman the $8,500 construction
cost listed on the permit, according to City Commissioner Cindi Hutchinson.
Forman says he paid for the parking project.
The 8,800-square-foot, 220-foot-long median is on SE 13th Street, one
block south of Davie Boulevard and on the west side of SE 3rd Avenue.
In that area, lots of similar size are worth at least $300,000, according
to a local realtor. The church is getting use of the median for free
— and city taxpayers will continue to pick up the maintenance
The median has been under assault in recent years by people routinely
parking their cars on the grass. The damage they caused can be seen
in an aerial photo on the city’s web site — dirt is clearly
visible where green grass should be. (See that photo at www.graphicwitness.com/median.)
The city tried to preserve, protect and defend the beautiful grass by
erecting barricades (“bollards”) on the north and south
sides of the median. The wooden, bumper-high barricades were each 200
On Jan. 15, 2004, Forman wrote an angry letter to Commissioner Hutchinson
in which he threatened to sue the city if the barricades weren’t
Hutchinson says the parking lot talks were set in motion after the city’s
barricades were destroyed — twice!
Who destroyed them?
Hamilton Forman, according to Hamilton Forman. He says he tore down
the barricades “on the church side.”
“The first time they put some in front of the church, I went out
and got a sledgehammer and knocked them out, and threw 'em to one side,”
Forman told a city advisory committee Sept. 20. “When I walked
out and saw they were there, I knocked them down that same day so that
we could continue to park in that area.” (Hear
Forman’s admission has fueled the sense of outrage at the city’s
land “giveaway.” When residents of a nearby neighborhood
heard that Forman had admitted destroying city property, they were shocked.
“Was he arrested?” they said. “Was he fined?”
The answer is “no.”
After the barricades were knocked down, Hutchinson met with Forman and
asked city staff to solve the problem, she says. The commissioner claims
she wasn’t involved from that point on, and didn’t know
about the parking lot plan.
During the talks that followed, a city employee created the initial
design for the church parking lot.
On April 26, 2004, “A-1 Network, 1323 SE 3rd Ave.,” filed
the application for the permit, listing itself as the “owner”
of the city right-of-way. No nearby property owners were notified of
the proposal. The final plan was initialed by four city employees.
The permit was issued on July 14. Local property owners became aware
of the “secret” project when construction began in mid-August.
RULES DON’T APPLY
The church was not required to put in pavers, sidewalks and other things
that might be required of private developers. That’s because the
rules don’t apply to publicly-owned property, according to Acting
City Engineer Peter Partington.
The result: Plain asphalt parking spaces on property the city controls!
It appears that sprinklers also weren’t required. Recently a Parks
& Rec employee noticed the new sod turning brown. He stopped to
check the sprinklers. There were none.
“The sod will die,” he said.
In Fort Lauderdale, property owners love their landscaped medians. Poinciana
Park is no exception. Grassy medians with large oaks on broad streets
are the aesthetic highlight of the neighborhood, which is situated around
the north side of Broward General Medical Center. The area is a mix
of single family homes, rental units, houses converted to offices, and
On SE 13th Street, there was nearly 1,300 feet of continuous green “linear
park” stretching from Andrews Avenue to SE 4th Avenue —
“eye candy” for locals and passersby alike.
Churchgoers have been parking on the median for years, and that has
been tolerated by the neighborhood. Parking on Sundays is not enough
to permanently destroy t he grass.
But in recent years, the Charter School of Excellence has been added
to the church grounds. Forman says it started with 100 students, and
has expanded to 300. That adds to the parking and traffic pressures.
Visitors to a nearby offices also contributed to the median parking
problem, according to long-time residents.
When the First Christian Church made an attempt to construct parking
spaces on the same median in 1995, City Manager George Hanbury called
the medians “an aesthetic asset to this area.”
Tom Tapp, then Parks and Recreation Director, flatly opposed the parking
lot proposal “because of the attractiveness of the medians,”
The current South Andrews Avenue Master Plan calls the medians a neighborhood
“asset” and pushes for even more green space. The City Commission
adopted that Master Plan in May 2004 — two months before city
staff issued the “secret” permit.
Although the paved parking spaces are technically “public,”
they only have practical value to the church, school and the offices
across the street. There are no retail businesses in the immediate area.
Police have failed to enforce “Keep Off Median” signs near
the church, according to residents.
COMMITTEE CUTS SPACES
On Sept 20, the city’s Property and Right-of-Way Committee voted
4-3 to recommend continuation of the project, which had started weeks
earlier. In a “compromise” not supported by residents, the
committee called for two fewer parking spaces.
The church went ahead and completed the project by paving all 14 spaces
allowed by the original permit.
Representatives of District IV civic associations expressed outrage
at the secret deal during Commissioner Hutchinson’s Sept. 20 meeting.
One Poinciana Park homeowner said he was amazed and disappointed that
he had not been given the chance to comment on a project that is one
block from his home.