|One Neighborhood, Two Personalities|
|Written by Margaret Griffis|
In Shorecrest, hot tempers lead to a rift and a rivalry
In the next few weeks, residents of Miami’s Shorecrest neighborhood may find themselves a little confused as they realize they now have two homeowner associations in their little community, which lies east of Biscayne Boulevard and north of NE 79th Street. There is the long-standing Shorecrest Homeowners Association (SHOA) and now the upstart Shorecrest United.
This sort of thing is not uncommon in small towns filled with passionate residents: Strongly held beliefs lead to friction, then fracture.
Troy Howard and Chris Masciatti, both active in SHOA at one time, grew frustrated with the slow pace of change that has left Shorecrest, in their opinion, lagging behind other Biscayne Corridor neighborhoods that have seen dramatic improvements in their quality of life. Rather than try working within SHOA, they recently joined forces and struck out on their own, each bringing special skills to the endeavor.
Masciatti is a former code-enforcement officer and now a private code consultant. He can easily detect abuses that are already governed by various codes and laws. Not only that, he can quickly do the research required to present a credible argument before city officials.
Howard’s background is in public relations, and he has worked in Washington, D.C., as a press secretary for Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas. What he brings to the mix is his knowledge of political dealings and a fiery desire to get projects moving. However, that aggressive, Beltway attitude has perhaps strained his relations with some neighbors, who may prefer or have simply resigned themselves to the often lackadaisical, when not exasperatingly slow, local political culture.
Even as Howard and Masciatti were trying to recruit new members to Shorecrest United, the fledgling group scored its first victory. On February 22, a City of Miami special master agreed with Howard and Masciatti that the owners of a property at 810 NE 80th St. had committed several code violations and ordered it brought into compliance. For more than two years, American Earth Movers, a marine dredging company with offices on NE 79th Street, had been using a residential lot behind those offices to store heavy construction vehicles and parked cars. Residents were suffering from the ugly appearance and noise pollution produced by the illegal parking lot.
Shorecrest United’s founders believe this win underscores how their organization can shine -- in what Howard and Masciatti call the “technical angle.” Some SHOA members, however, call that “technical angle” something else, especially as it applies to Howard: unnecessarily combative.
Not long ago, Howard was SHOA’s vice president, but tempers eventually flared at meetings (and outside of them) as the clashing personalities bogged down the group’s work -- just as it had recovered from a previous schism.
In late July 2007, SHOA president Allyson Warren was ousted during a boisterous and vitriolic meeting in which members challenged her leadership (“The Shorecrest Insurgency,” BT, September 2007). Earlier Warren had angered many Shorecrest residents when she endorsed a waterfront condominium project called Oasis. Then, as president of an umbrella group called the Upper Eastside Miami Council, she had orchestrated the expulsion of Belle Meade representative (and BT columnist) Frank Rollason. Several homeowner associations quit in protest. The Shorecrest Home Owners Association eventually overcame the debacle, seated an interim board, and resumed work on community issues together.
By contrast, the new rift -- whether mostly professional or personal -- between the association and Troy Howard became too great to continue. Instead of staging his own coup, Howard chose to advocate separately and found a perfect ally in his neighbor Masciatti. Together they formed Shorecrest United and registered with the state as a community action organization in this past January.
Howard downplays the split: “Shorecrest United came about as a complement to Shorecrest Home Owners Association, not in competition or anything. Shorecrest United is just going to take on issues on a more technical level than SHOA was prepared to do.”
Masciatti agrees: “We need each other. We can’t do everything. We’re dealing with the impossible stuff, the major zoning issues where you need a technical background. Shorecrest Home Owners is good for the community issues, the street cleanups, the Crime Watch, the speed bumps. They are focusing on the things that are easier for them to understand and to do, and they do a very good job.”
So why not combine forces?
Masciatti answers: “I like every single one of them (at SHOA), but being a part of that would not achieve the goal of [getting] Shorecrest where it needs to be. On the day that Shorecrest is where it needs to be, I think the two groups will probably combine.”
Meanwhile the Shorecrest Home Owners Association is soldiering on with resident Jack Spirk as its new president. The recently elected board was presented to the public during a February 26 party at Yiya’s Gourmet Cuban Bakery. Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado, along with more than two dozen residents, attended the meet-and-greet, which showcased a friendly and welcoming atmosphere.
Spirk himself is no slouch in the world of community activism, having worked with various advocacy groups since moving to South Florida more than two decades ago. He tells the BT about various projects SHOA is pursuing, and he disagrees that the two Shorecrest organizations should work separately on them. “I believe the confusion of having two groups will impede progress,” he says. “Troy and Chris could have been a more positive force if they worked within the established structure of the SHOA and chaired committees, not created a splinter group.”
Volume 12, Issue 8. October 2014
The Smithsonian honors a local documentary photographer
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