Residents concerned about parking, homeless at new Fort Lauderdale park

Some Fort Lauderdale residents are expressing concerns over loss of parking and security issues related to the nearly completed Oceanside Park, originally a parking lot.

The green space is part of the Las Olas Beach Park Project, $49 million of work which also includes a parking garage that opened last December. The garage offers approximately 650 parking spaces for $2 per hour, where vehicles can be parked for a maximum of ten hours. But the construction created a net loss of 172 parking spaces, according to the South Florida real estate news outlet, TheRealDeal.

As a result, parking has gotten horrendously difficult, said longtime resident Josh Kelly. He normally has to drive around for 30 minutes when he goes for a haircut at nearby Mankind. Often, he gives up and uses a friend’s valet at the Watergarden, which is a seven-minute walk.

“I have seen all of the changes in the past 32 years,” he said. “I have the resident parking permit and that helps with not having to pay when I find a spot on the beach, but it has gotten horrible.”

It’s only going to get worse when construction is done. The city needs more parking spaces, not fewer, said Kelly.

The Fort Lauderdale City Commission approved the project in January 2017 and started construction on the garage in March of that year. Construction for the park began in December 2018.

Before, one could park on A1A and just walk across the street to the beach, said Henrique Meyer. “The new garage is over a thousand feet away,” he said. “I don’t even bother going to that beach anymore because I’m not carrying a bunch of beach chairs, a cooler and umbrellas for over three hundred yards.”

But Fort Lauderdale city spokeswoman Dayana Diaz said adding green space to the beach area was one of the main points of the project. “This is a major beach enhancement project unlike any that has been seen in decades,” she said. “The project will strengthen Fort Lauderdale’s reputation.”

Diaz also said that there will be rangers monitoring the park and a new police substation built adjacent to the public restroom. She said that the restroom will not be open late at night or in the early morning hours.

Mike Kurwoski said that the substation will help, but homeless people will still use the park to shower. “Not only do they have their hands full with the beach already, but you can’t stop a homeless person from rinsing themselves while they walk though it,” Kurowski said. “Lived right by this area for a while.”

The only place homeless people can take a shower in Fort Lauderdale is on the edge of the city next to Lauderhill at LifeNet4Families, said Dean Bairaktaris, a member of the Facebook page Homeless Lives Matter Fort Lauderdale. The facility lets people take two to three showers per week.

According to beach beautification manager Almy, the official ribbon cutting for the new park will be in early January.

Mickaella is a senior at FIU, currently majoring in Journalism and looking forward to a Spring 2020 graduation. She was born in New Jersey but moved to Miami at the age of 7. Missing the fall foliage, winter snow and 24/7 deli’s, she plans to move back up north to New York after graduation and further enhance her career.