By Jenny Staletovich
Miami-Dade County, the city of Miami and Coral Gables violated part of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 when they allowed a controversial trolley garage to be built in a historic black neighborhood in Coconut Grove, federal officials have found.
An investigation by the U.S. Department of Transportation, triggered by a neighbor’s complaint, found the county failed to ensure the cities followed the law. The cities, in turn, violated the law by not conducting a study during the garage’s “planning stages” to ensure that race did not play a part in determining where it was built or whether the garage would have an “adverse impact” on the West Grove neighborhood, which has long struggled to attract business.
The two municipalities, which say they were unaware of the requirements, also failed to perform public outreach as required by the law, the investigation found.
The county and the cities must now submit a plan for addressing the violations, including a study on whether the garage negatively impacts the neighborhood and whether a better location exists.
University of Miami law professor Anthony Alfieri, whose Center for Ethics & Public Service has helped residents fight the garage, said the ruling calls into question whether the governments violated the law in other projects where federal transportation money was used.