Residents Gather in Miami’s Little Haiti Neighborhood to Protest the Onslaught of Gentrification

IMG_0999Longtime residents, business owners and civic leaders gathered in Miami’s Little Haiti neighborhood on Thursday to deliver a message about their rapidly changing community: “We want to stay.”

Residents and activists, many carrying hand-written signs declaring “Little Haiti is not for sale” and “Say no to gentrification,” said real estate developers and speculators are buying up land and pushing out the people and small businesses that give the neighborhood its distinct Caribbean character.

“They tried to push me out of this area,” said Wilfrid Joseph Daleus, a Haitian immigrant and owner of the Daleus Museum and Art Gallery on 59th Street and Northeast Second Avenue.

Daleus, 66, said he opened his art gallery in 1980 and loves the neighborhood. But his rent is rising, and he feels that local government could do more to help, such designating the area a historic or cultural district.

“The price goes up every month,” he said, “and I don’t have the support to stay. … But I don’t want to go. I want to stay.”

The Little Haiti neighborhood of Miami — an area broadly defined as running from 38th Street to 79th Street between Interstate 95 and the Florida East Coast Railway — does not have an official boundary, though city commissioners have considered a formal designation in the past.

Lately, though, art galleries have moved north from Wynwood in search of more affordable rents in Little Haiti. And developers have taken increasing interest in the area, using harassment, intimidation and sometimes inducements to coerce longtime residents and businesses to move, said Marleine Bastien, executive director of Haitian Women of Miami, a community group.

Bastien told a group gathered in front of the offices of the Haitian American Community Development Corporation on Northeast 82nd Street that “a lot of investors and developers” are “organizing to change the name of Little Haiti. They are buying left and right, cash.”

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