RKS 2023 Hot Docs: “Razing Liberty Square”: Them vs. Us

Liberty Square was one of the United States’ first public housing projects and the first for black residents of Miami. On the municipal plans it was referred to as a “negro community” and duly segregated in the spirit of the times. Over 700 families had homes in Liberty Square. The homes looked like army barracks but for many years there was a deep sense of community. In the 1960’s Liberty City then started developing around Liberty Square and it attracted a newly formed black middle class.

Liberty Square was strategically placed away from the waterfront where there is some high-priced real estate. However, with global warming sea level property is subject to flooding which is forecasted to worsen so that by the end of the century some 13 million Americans will be displaced by rising water levels. Liberty City sits on a ridge 12 feet above sea level so by a process of climate gentrification once inexpensive land becomes more desirable and expensive.

Is it simply a coincidence that Liberty Square was subject to redevelopment as a “mixed income community” or was there something more nefarious at play? A private developer wins the $300 million bid and both the Miami Dade municipal government and the private developer promise no relocation for Liberty Square residents of which they reiterate as the fist block of public housing units is opened with great fanfare. Dig deeper and this statement was subject to political manipulation. The Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers given to Liberty Square residents deciding to temporarily locate is taken up by a high percentage of Liberty Square residents. Of the hundreds of Liberty Square residents accepting Section 8 vouchers only 5 returned which according to historical precedent was to be expected.

A fascinating study of what appears simple and benevolent to be less than so. The pitfalls of urban renewal forced on a community reliant on public housing. And the new public housing appears to be deteriorating quickly. You’ll hear from residents, former residents, the private developer, politicians, bureaucrats and community workers. Although there are a few happy relocated Liberty Square residents there is an inescapable feeling of them vs. us situation. Was this all a matter of good intentions gone awry or a calculated grab for profitable real estate in a “mixed income community”? How interesting Liberty City real estate prices are soaring. Is this a coincidence?

“Razing Liberty Square” has its world premiere at Toronto Hot Docs on 1 and 6 May. 3, 23. Directed by Katja Esson. RKS 2023 Film Rating 86/100

Published by Robert K Stephen (CSW)

Robert K Stephen writes about food ,drink, travel, film, and lifestyle issues. He also has published serialized novels "Life at Megacorp", "Virus # 26, "Reggie the Egyptian Rescue Dog" and "The Penniless Pensioner" Robert was the first associate member of the Wine Writers’ Circle of Canada. He also holds a Mindfulness Certification from the University of Leiden and the University of Toronto. Be it Spanish cured meat, dried fruit, BBQ, or recycled bamboo place mats, Robert endeavours to escape the mundane, which is why he has established this publication. His motto is, "Have Story, Will Write."

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