HUD Secretary Ben Carson visits Miami; gets stuck in elevator

MIAMI (WSVN) - U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson continues his national listening tour in Miami.

The tour allows Secretary Carson to hear public housing concerns directly from residents and supporting organizations.

On his agenda, Wednesday morning, was a visit to Collins Park, an affordable housing project located at 3625 N.W. 20th Ave. in Alapattah. Once there, Secretary Carson took a break to enjoy one of the public housing development’s amenities, a billiards table.

Collins Park is the result of a partnership between Miami-Dade County and Housing and Urban Development. Real estate developer Related Urban converted the project into a 124-unit public housing development.

According to Secretary Carson, public private partnerships like this create win-win situations. “It’s really nice, I mean, this is the way it should work,” he said. “There’s an enormous amount of resources and innovative talent that exist out there. All we have to do is create the environment so that it becomes advantageous for them to get involved.”

But the listening tour involved hearing both praise and criticism. Protesters gathered outside of Liberty Square’s community center in Liberty City, Wednesday afternoon, where they awaited the Secretary’s arrival at his final stop on the tour. They are upset about the proposed budget cuts to Liberty Square.

“Our message is for Ben Carson not to cut $6.2 billion for housing,” said protester Trenise Bryant. “We need that money to go to housing. Yes, he’s coming to give a certificate of demolition to Liberty Square, but that’s a certificate, a demolition of death if he cuts the housing fund.”

Inside, Carson reviewed the Liberty Square redevelopment plan with county and city officials.

“It’s not just about putting a roof over their head, but it’s about creating a nurturing community,” Carson said.

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez joined Carson to discuss the plans.

“This for me, I believe, will be my proudest accomplishment,” Gimenez said.

Tearing down and replacing Liberty Square will be the result of a public-private partnership, using more private money to get the job done.

“There is plenty of money, and we create these win-win situations where there’ll be even more money,” Carson said.

During his first stop of the day, at Courtside Apartments, located at Northwest Fourth Avenue and 17th Street, Carson was stuck in an elevator for several minutes. At around 8:39 a.m., he found his way out of the elevator after City of Miami Fire Rescue was able to assist.

But his Courtside Apartments visit was ultimately successful, despite the technical glitch.

“We were honored to have Secretary Carson here,” said Housing Trust Group CEO Matthew Rieger. “They’re important in leveraging public and private resources for affordable housing developments, like Courtside Apartments. This is the first of three planned phases on this site, which is owned by the county.”

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