Life among the 1%? Fisher Island couple sues after use of VIP ferry lane suspended

Maxim and Elena Temnikov want a Miami-Dade judge to restore privileges reserved for owners and residents that they allege were unfairly revoked

Sep.September 28, 2018 01:45 PM

Fisher Island (Credit: Michael Au via Flickr)

Ferry access to Fisher Island is so exclusive, owners and residents are banished to the back of the line if they or anyone going to their homes receives more than one speeding ticket traversing the ritzy community, according to a recently filed lawsuit in Miami-Dade Circuit Court.

The issue led biomedical research company honcho Maxim Temnikov and his wife Elena to sue the Fisher Island Community Association and its president Gary Snider. The couple is seeking a court injunction to restore their privileges for use of the ferry’s first lane, which is reserved for owners and residents only.

Attorneys for the Temnikovs and the association declined comment. Snider did not return a phone message and email seeking comment.

Fisher Island’s 33109 zip code ranks as the country’s richest: Residents earn an average of $2.5 million a year, according to a Bloomberg analysis of 2015 tax data.

The lawsuit reveals how access to Fisher Island is so tightly controlled that even owners and renters risk being penalized for excessive speeding by anyone visiting their homes. In addition to maintenance and assessments, owners are required to pay about $30,000 a year to help cover the costs for operating and maintaining the island’s transportation system, including the ferry, which holds up to 20 vehicles and runs every 15 to 20 minutes, according to the complaint and documents provided by the Temnikovs.

The ferry is divided into three car lanes. The first lane is exclusively for owners and residents, the second lane is for guests, and the third lane is for contractors, vendors and delivery drivers. If the first lane is full, owners and residents are given priority for lanes two and three. When all the lanes are full, those who don’t have first lane privileges are forced to wait for the next ferry, which can be anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, the lawsuit claims.

The Temnikovs, Fisher Island residents for eight years, allege that on Aug. 17, Maxim boarded the ferry when a security officer informed him that his access to the first lane had been suspended and that he and his wife “were banished” to the third lane. The couple claim they never received anything in writing that informed them that their access to the first lane was being suspended.

Maxim Temnikov, who is CEO of Sunny Isles Beach-based Vector Vitale, subsequently learned the reason their first lane privileges were suspended was because two delivery vehicles allegedly going to their home at 5311 Fisher Island received speeding tickets in June and July. The speed limit on Fisher Island is 19 miles per hour. Maxim and his attorney informed the community association that he had no control over the delivery drivers and requested that the association reconsider its suspension.

The lawsuit states that Virginia Hanley, the association’s director of administration, informed the Temnikovs that their first lane suspension was due to previous speeding violations in March and in November 2017. The Temnikovs allege that Hanley told them the association held two hearings that the couple did not attend to address the speeding violations. Hanley allegedly told the couple that the association issued them a warning and that any subsequent speeding violations linked to their address would result in the suspension, which the association’s board issued on July 25 after the two delivery drivers got ticketed.

The Temnikovs allege they were never notified about the July 25 hearing. They also claimed that the person who was ticketed for speeding in March was not going to their house. According to an affidavit attached to the lawsuit, private chess tutor Robert Ramirez said he was on Fisher Island to visit other families, not the Temnikovs.

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