Urban Miami doesn’t need a casino
BY TONY GOLDMAN
Forty-three years ago, I started Goldman Properties in New York City with a mission to preserve and restore depressed architecturally historic communities. In 1985, after a big success in New York’s Soho, I instantly fell in love with South Beach, a rough and decaying, yet magnificent collection of Art Deco buildings and gorgeous beaches, a precious relic of our American architectural heritage. I felt like I had stepped into King Solomon’s mines.
Immediately, I saw the opportunity to create the “American Rivera.” With the collaboration of like-minded romantic developers and spirited preservationists, we proceeded to fulfill our collective vision to save our district and create our Rivera. Building communities with taste, authenticity and style takes great effort and time. There are no quick fixes, and it requires heavy lifting with tremendous commitment and perseverance. Because of that and the contribution made by the photo and fashion industry, South Beach is now a quality cosmopolitan brand recognized worldwide, and has helped to redefine Miami.
In 25 short years we’ve built a year-round sophisticated city from what
was once a seasonal resort town. Not only do we have the largest cruise port in the country , two major international airports, the best shopping , food beverage and entertainment to be found anywhere, we also have the most beautiful beaches and world-class lodgings, residential and office buildings. We are a creative, taste-based community packed with thriving diverse businesses.
I think back to November 2001, when I became chairman of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, when hotel occupancy was at 9 percent in the wake of 9/11. We immediately came back, and then surged ahead as the prime U.S. destination in a matter of six months. We needed no false devices or quick fixes — just collective and creative hard work. Tourism is now at an all-time high. Can you believe that we did all of this without the help or existence of casinos in our city?
We didn’t need them then, and we surely don’t need them now. Urban centers do not need, and should not allow, the infiltration and infestation of casino interests of any kind in our city.
K.T. Lim, chairman of Genting Casinos, recently stated: “I strongly believe this can be the agent of transformation that can turn Miami into a ‘real city.’ ”
Who is he kidding? We are a real city! We Miamians, and the millions of visitors who for decades have flocked to our “real city,” would take exception to that statement.
We are far too smart to see these and other baseless, self-interested comments to be anything more than that. This proposed project will do nothing to enhance our city. To the contrary — it would scar, degrade and over tax our beautiful, highly energetic and artistic community. In fact, we see through all the arguments and all those who preach for casino gambling. The reason they are here is because of the real value we have created, and they wish to cannibalize it for their own personal gain.
The casino philosophy is clear: seduce and keep their customers inside the casino doors until their pockets are empty. Casinos look to dominate, never to co-exist. They don’t interface and embrace community. Casinos do not belong in any urban areas, period.
Furthermore, if this disgraceful overscaled project were to be approved, neighborhood traffic congestion would be unbearable gridlock — placed at the nexus of downtown, the MacArthur Causeway to Miami Beach, the Cultural Performing Arts District, the Wynwood Arts District, Midtown and the Design District. Could there be a worse place to be? It would overwhelm the streets and surrounding neighborhoods like a giant predator.
Any chance of the Downtown Flagler Street Historic District ever being rejuvenated and reborn as a great and needed asset of our city will be gone forever. In fact, I predict it would become Miami’s “Red Light” District.
Whether in Miami or Miami Beach, casino gambling is deadly. We must stay in control of our future by defeating all gambling legislation. Let us speak out and make our views known and our voices heard. Let’s stand together: No casinos ever. Never!
Tony Goldman is chairman of Goldman Properties, which saves and revitalizes mixed-use and historic neighborhoods in New York, Miami, Philadelphia and other cities.
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