El Portal trailer park residents sue to stop wrecking ball

Barbara Falkinburg is suing El Portal and the new owner of the Little Farm Trailer Park to stop the demolition of her mobile home.
Barbara Falkinburg is suing El Portal and the new owner of the Little Farm Trailer Park to stop the demolition of her mobile home.

Three residents of the Little Farm Trailer Park in El Portal are suing the village, as well as the property’s previous and current owners, to stop the demolition of the 14-acre mobile home lot near Biscayne Boulevard, The Real Deal has learned.

The trailer park changed hands on Feb. 27 when Biscayne Park Acquisition Group, an affiliate of New York-based Madison Realty Capital, sold the 13.86-acre property for $14.25 million to Wealthy Delight, a Coral Gables-based company managed by Leo Wu.

Calls and an email to Wealthy Delight’s Coral Gables lawyer Jordan Pascale were not returned. Madison Realty principal Brian Shatz, who is listed as Biscayne Park’s manager, and El Portal Village Manager Jason Walker declined comment because they had not read the lawsuit.

According to the complaint filed this week in Miami, Barbara Falkinburg, Maria Palacio, and Marie Baptiste allege that El Portal officials violated state law by entering into a settlement on Feb. 6 with the buyer and seller to tear down the trailer park without first assisting the 1,000 mobile home residents find replacement housing.

The sale was contingent on the settlement because El Portal had placed liens on the property due to $8.2 million in unpaid code violations dating back to 2006. The village also sued Biscayne Park in 2012. As part of the settlement, El Portal agreed to waive nearly all of the fines as long as Wealthy Delight razed the mobile homes. The new owner is being required to pay $575,000 to the village.

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Evian L. White, an attorney with Legal Services of Greater Miami representing the three residents pro bono, said the village made no attempt to find new living accommodations to relocate the residents when it executed the settlement agreement.

Florida law prohibits municipal and county governments from approving rezoning applications or from taking any other official action resulting in the relocation of mobile home residents without first determining that adequate mobile home parks or other suitable facilities exist for relocation.

“Mobile home parks are the only form of non-subsidized affordable housing in Miami-Dade County,” White told TRD. “Florida law provides a process to protect residents when the government plays a part in shutting down a mobile home park. That process must be followed before Little Farm can be closed.”

White said a majority of the Little Farm residents are poor, elderly, and disabled. For instance, Falkinburg is an 80-year-old retiree who moved into her trailer home 13 years ago with her 59-year-old son, who is wheelchair-bound due a stroke he suffered a decade ago. Sixty-year-old Palacio and her husband share a trailer with her sister-in-law. And Baptiste is a 67-year-old retired housekeeper.

“We don’t know what the plans are for redevelopment of the park,” White said. “All the settlement states is that the park has to be shut down and the mobile homes be demolished within a year.”