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Written by Mark Sell -- BT Contributor   
March 2013

As the annual Haiti Cup soccer tournament approaches, residents of Biscayne Landing prepare for some very late, very noisy nights

RPix_MarkSell_3-13uth Torres of the Oaks Towers in Biscayne Landing wants you to know that she does, indeed, like to get down and groove to Haitian music.

The human resources consultant, teacher, and single mom of school-age kids also wants to inform you and the North Miami City Council that she does not like it blasting from the North Miami Athletic Stadium across NE 151st Street at 10:30 or 11:00 p.m. on Sunday nights, when kids and parents need rest for school.

But, right now, that’s the plan for the 13th annual Haiti Cup soccer tournament and concert, on 11 consecutive Sunday nights, from March 10 till May 19.

So Ms. Torres went before the council on February 12 to ask it to dial back the noise and shut off the speakers at 10:00 p.m., rather than 11:00 p.m., as other cities do, and as North Miami’s very own noise ordinance dictates. Last year she got 142 signatures from her fellow Biscayne Landing neighbors protesting the noise.

Ms. Torres came to the council meeting well prepared with evidence and research gathered from other cities, all of which had rejected requests to hold a similar concert at similar hours. From the North Miami council, however, she got this answer: Tough cookies.

(Disclosure: I’m one of Ms. Torres’s neighbors. I have a daughter who goes to a magnet high school 17 miles away. We set the alarm for 5:30 a.m. and would have signed Ms. Torres’s petition, too, had we known about it. And, like Ms. Torres, we enjoy Haitian music.)

Scott Galvin, who was the only council member who supported Ms. Torres’s request, tried and failed even to get a second to the motion to table the discussion for the next meeting, on February 26. He was seeking to moderate noise levels for all events, including city-sponsored ones.

Instead, Galvin and fellow council members got into a shouting match and verbal food fight that exposed the raw ethnic and racial fissures on the council. Mayor Andre Pierre said the proposal was “singling out a group.” (The city already singles itself out as a special group by granting itself the noise ordinance exception, the very loophole Galvin was trying to close.)

Galvin, visibly upset, strongly protested he was not singling anyone out. Not wanting to be left out, Councilwoman Marie Steril dove in, saying, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah” (that’s a quote), while banging repeatedly with a gavel.

Ms. Torres walked away incensed, declaring, “I’ll sue the city.”

And so, starting March 10, Biscayne Landing residents -- and others for a good mile around -- will have to endure the groove until 11:00 p.m., while the Haiti Cup packs between 2000 and 4500 people into the 10-acre facility for 11 straight Sunday nights.

Pay 10 bucks and you can catch some spirited soccer and some of the best Haitian bands around. It’s a good bet you’ll also score some tasty goat roti from a friendly vendor, something that just doesn’t happen in those franchise-laden, antiseptic communities to the north, like West Boca or Abacoa in Jupiter. It’s a big part of why we love North Miami. But, still…

This year 16 teams of Haitian-Americans, representing different Haitian cities, will play round-robin soccer tournaments, starting at 4:00 p.m. The music will crank up around 9:30, and reverberate across Biscayne Bay, so that residents of Bal Harbour, Bay Harbor Islands, and southern Sunny Isles Beach will be able to hear it.

For the May 19 finals, I suggest nearby residents take a Sunday afternoon nap. And, if you’re driving out of Biscayne Landing that afternoon, be patient after 4:00 p.m. That’s when a crowd of 4500 is expected for the finals, with two bands playing that night, rather than the usual one.

In fairness, you can’t really blame the organizer or company sponsor. For 13 straight years, promoter Patrick LeFebre has always done the right thing, building the annual event into a smashing success.

He’s a good guy who has played by the rules, paid his fees, worked hard, and hustled to get city cooperation. He has received valuable backing from Madame Gougousse Foods, Miami wholesalers and purveyors of fine Caribbean packaged foods such as jasmine-scented rice. (You can check out the Kreyol commercials on YouTube. Madame Gougousse is a big name in the Caribbean.)

“We will do our best to shut down at 10:30,” LeFebre says. “We’ll just do one band on Sunday, rather than two bands, except for the finals. The music is a very big part of what we do. That’s what helps the event grow. We don’t want to hurt anyone. We want everyone to have a good time.”

This year, LeFebre has secured bands venerated in the Haitian-American community, including T-Vice, Gabel, Disip, and Carimi.

All well and good, but a question remains: Is it time to move the Haiti Cup soccer tournament to another venue in 2014?

Over the past couple of years, lots of people have moved into the 300-plus Biscayne Landing units right next door to the event site. Today Biscayne Landing is bustling with families, attracted by its proximity and easy walking distance to David Lawrence Jr. K-8 (already surging way past capacity), Alonzo and Tracy Mourning High School, and Florida International University’s Biscayne Bay Campus, less than a mile down the road.

And thousands more people will be coming in within the next five years, as Oleta Partners embarks on the biggest development project ever to hit North Miami. (See my previous column, “Let the Boom Begin,” in January’s BT.)

Ruth Torres, in all her digging, came up with a possible alternate site for the Haiti Cup in 2014: Ives Estates Park, a 95-acre county facility just west of I-95, off Ives Dairy Road.

Oops, just got this bulletin. Councilman Michael Blynn, who conspicuously would not even second Scott Galvin’s motion to defer -- while his District 2 opponents in the May 14 City of North Miami election, Carol Keys and Joseph Haber, looked on -- placed the subject back on the city council agenda for February 26. Concerned residents should make their voices heard there.

Beyond that, I invite city council members and staff to join me and other constituents at my apartment on a Haiti Cup Sunday of their choosing -- I suggest May 19 -- and groove to the music through hurricane-resistant doors and windows. I’ll lay out the wine and cheese. The catch: All guests must set their alarms for 5:30 a.m. the next day. No cheating.

 

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