Climate gentrification and immigration crackdown in Little Haiti, Miami


In “Climate gentrification and Trump’s immigration crackdown is hitting this Miami neighborhood hard,”
E.A. Crunden (Think Progress) writes, “”If they allow the developers to build this as-is, Little Haiti as we know it will no longer exist.”

On the streets of Little Haiti, resentment is brewing in the air. The bright, cheerful neighborhood booms with friendly banter and greetings between neighbors, even early in the morning on a Monday. But the lightest of conversations turns sour when the discussion shifts to the neighborhood’s booming development.

“The developers come and make it almost impossible for a guy that makes under $25,000 a year to make it,” grumbles TiGeorges Laguerre, who runs Kafé Péyi. Laguerre’s Haitian cuisine made him famous in Los Angeles, but he came to Miami seeking Creole and a Haitian community. Now, he feels that familial atmosphere is about to disappear, a trend locals say is thanks to mass-development — as well as climate change.

In the midst of murals adorned with the Haitian flag and iconic Haitian figures, a number of small businesses have shuttered. To the side of a main road cutting through Little Haiti, a large-scale mural oversees one grassy vacant lot, partitioned by a fence strewn with campaign signs in advance of Tuesday’s primary elections. Bordering the area is another, larger lot, where a prominent billboard foreshadows Little Haiti’s imminent future: a wide-scale development project bringing 2,500 apartments and 27-story buildings to the neighborhood.

“We are in the final phase, the last leg of gentrification,” Marleine Bastien tells ThinkProgress unhappily, as she gestures around her. “If they allow the developers to build this as-is, Little Haiti as we know it will no longer exist. Because there is no way that the area can survive such high-scale [projects], such density.”

Bastien is the executive director of the Family Action Network Movement (FANM), which traditionally works to empower low and moderate income families in the area. These days, her efforts are focused more and more on addressing what she calls “climate gentrification” — the process through which low-income communities of color are being displaced and replaced by wealthy white homeowners eyeing property away from the beach.

“For the longest time, we used to think that Little Haiti is being [taken over] because of the airports, proximity to the beach,” says Bastien. “We used to think that it was because of the proximity to so many important outlets. But we found out, over three years ago, that [Little Haiti] is situated at a much higher altitude.”

hat prized attribute is spelling trouble for the neighborhood. Little Haiti serves as one of Miami’s proud art communities, a bustling area shaped by the French-Creole influences of its residents. Haitian immigrants have sought refuge in South Florida over the years, fleeing persecution and poverty at home. In Miami, they have painstakingly carved out a space, slowly turning one of the city’s least desirable neighborhoods into a welcoming hub for artists and musicians.

Some migration to the area, however, has been shaped by natural disasters. The 2010 earthquake that devastated Haiti led the Obama administration to grant undocumented Haitians in the country Temporary Protected Status (TPS), allowing them to remain in the United States. But that reprieve is coming to an end; last year, the Trump administration ended TPS for 50,000 Haitians, giving them until July 22, 2019 to return to the island or make alternate arrangements.

For Little Haiti, that brutal blow is only one of many.

Florida is among the states most vulnerable to climate change. Hurricanes worsened by warming temperatures, deadly heat hurting farmworkers, and a toxic algae bloom crisis have all hit the state hard. Sea level rise is also encroaching on populated beaches, devaluing homes, and encouraging developers to look further inland. And their eyes are set on Little Haiti. [. . .]

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