|In Praise of E. Albert Pallot|
|Written by Janet Goodman, BT Contributor|
His park is just one part of his Miami legacy
In June 1987, Miami community leaders, residents, and elected officials, including four mayors and former mayors, met in Magnolia Park to celebrate its rededication.
This 2.9-acre passive greenspace, located at the northern boundary of the Edgewater neighborhood along Biscayne Bay at 3805 NE 6th Avenue, was ceremoniously renamed for Russian émigré E. Albert Pallot, in honor of his lifetime of public service.
The Miami Herald reported that a yellow poinciana tree was planted, a symbol of Pallot’s most recognized civic accomplishment. “People are in love with this tree,” he said at the time. “The colors are something else.”
Pallot was an important Miamian who should not be forgotten, but it’s been 23 years since his passing, and memories fade. Who was he?
In 1958, Albert Pallot founded the City of Miami Committee on Beautification and Environment (CBE), and served as chairman of the advisory group up until his death in 1994.
The CBE was a major promoter of poinciana trees and sponsor of the annual Royal Poinciana Fiesta. The committee led beautification projects within the city, including planting royal palms along Biscayne Boulevard, landscaping Miami International Airport, organizing anti-litter campaigns, creating the Robert King High and Margaret Pace parks, and starting a beautification program with Dade County Public Schools.
Maurice Ferré, a former six-term Miami mayor (1973-1985), who attended that park rededication ceremony 30 years ago, spoke to the BT about his old friend.
“Albert Pallot was a man way ahead of his time, a visionary,” says Ferré. “He was an activist, and realized that it was very important to keep Miami beautiful, and that the environment was a major factor in it. Absolutely, he should be remembered for his good works.”
Appointed by Gov. Rick Scott in 2011 to serve on the Florida Transportation Commission, Ferré recalls Pallot as a leader, humanitarian, and community servant, as well as lawyer, former Florida assistant attorney general (1941-1942), president of the Florida Bar Foundation (1981-1982), founder of Biscayne Federal Savings and Loan Association, and a founder of Mount Sinai Hospital in Miami Beach.
“Upon retirement, Albert Pallot was allowed to retain the title chairman emeritus of the City of Miami Committee on Beautification and Environment,” says Albert Ruder, former director of Miami’s Parks Department (1988-2003), “which says a lot about what he accomplished and how respected he was.”
The Royal Poinciana Fiesta, Miami’s oldest continuously running festival, will enjoy its 80th anniversary on June 10-11, a time of year when the trees are ablaze with red, orange, or yellow blossoms. Throughout the 1940s, royal poinciana seedlings were distributed to the public during this event.
Ferré remembers the annual celebration of this tree, which is native to Madagascar and endangered there, as a very big deal. The festival is now held in Coconut Grove, with former CBE member-narrated bus tours starting from the Kampong, the former home of David Fairchild, who is credited with introducing poincianas to Miami, and traveling to view our most dazzling trees.
The festival features food, live music, artworks, and tree plantings; the Royal Poinciana Queen and her court are announced and presented with scholarship funds.
According to arborist John Harris, who served on the CBE board from 1991-2004, public interest and involvement in the committee waned over the years, as did the city’s small funding. Eventually projects were transferred to other organizations, like TREEmendous and the Tropical Flowering Tree Society, which has been sponsoring the Royal Poinciana Fiesta since 1988.
In 2008 the CBE was officially “sunsetted” by the City of Miami. Commission documents cited the reasons: “Lack of quorum and inability to meet more frequently. ‘Committee’ has not met in over five years. No legislation officially established the committee.”
But in September 2015, the spirit of the old CBE was resurrected with legislation establishing the City of Miami Beautification Committee, thanks to the Million Trees Miami Campaign, according to Harris.
Another environmental group, VolunteerCleanup.org, held 312 individual South Florida events in 2015 and 2016, during which 50 tons of marine debris were collected and removed from Miami waterways. E. Albert Pallot Park’s shoreline was a recipient of the cleanup, which garnered 600 pounds of plastic and Styrofoam trash.
Today the park is an oasis amid major Edgewater development. Construction of the Miami Bay Condos by J. Milton & Associates is going on to the immediate north and west of the park. To the south is exit 2B off the Julia Tuttle Causeway, and the east offers an unobstructed view of Biscayne Bay and the Julia Tuttle, the park’s greatest asset. Approximately 400 feet of waterfront has only 100 feet of seawall, which allows in marine debris with the tide.
Poincianas still grace the park -- there are five of them on the western edge -- as well as sea grape, oak, and coconut palms along the north, south, and bayside perimeters. There’s also a studded silk floss tree that blooms each spring.
With one of the best bay vistas in town, it’s disappointing that there are only two metal benches and no picnic tables. Dog walkers, be sure to carry bags, as the pet waste station has none and no receptacle; it could have been knocked down during area construction as it’s now tacked to the back of a city code sign near the park entrance.
Sod is in fine shape, but the 6th Avenue sidewalk has taken a beating. Good news is that developers J. Milton & Associates will be paying for and making various improvements to E. Albert Pallot Park.
According to Luciana Gonzalez, assistant director of the City of Miami Department of Planning and Zoning, $2.5 million in improvements will be made, including a seawall, a kayak launch, and a baywalk.
Mayor Ferré calls Albert Pallot “a prototypical Miamian of the Jewish faith. In the great Jewish tradition of giving back to the community -- where the community gives you, you give back. That was exactly what Albert Pallot was all about.”
Now the community will be giving back to the park that bears his name.
Volume 15, Issue 2, April 2017
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