Resident Safety Concerns Not A Priority For Police Chief Or City Manager

Ariel Fernandez

Founder & Editor
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On March 28, 2022, Gables Insider‘s Ariel Fernandez emailed Coral Gables Mayor Vince Lago, as a resident, regarding his concern with the growing number of accidents he was seeing on Granada Boulevard north of Coral Way. In particular, the blocks just north and south of Alhambra Circle.

The Mayor forwarded the concerns to Police Chief Edward J. Hudak, Jr. who told the Mayor “we will pull the data from that intersection and advise on a proposed course of action to address the issues reported. I will report back.” The Mayor pressed “how long will the report take to produce?” Hudak replied, “We should have the data and meet by the end of next week. We have two other intersections we are working on currently and will get on this one right after that.”

However, over two and a half months later, Hudak has yet to provide any report as the number of accidents continues to rise.

Rollover accident on Granada Boulevard at North Greenway on June 6th

Just last week, on June 6th, there was a rollover crash at the intersection of North Greenway and Granada with serious injuries where the elderly driver had to be extricated from the vehicle and airlifted to Ryder Trauma Center.

The very next day, another accident on the intersection of Sorolla and Granada.

On June 6th, Gables Insider submitted a public record request for a report of all accidents on Granada Boulevard north of Coral Way. Nine days later, the report has not been provided.

The Root Of The Problem

The large number of accidents is not without explanation. The root of the problem stems from the traffic light at the intersection of Granada and Alhambra. When the light for north-south traffic turns red, the backup of traffic creates a shield for east-west traffic on surrounding streets. While the traffic on their side of the street is stopped, vehicles may be traveling on the other lane of traffic. As they try to cross between vehicles, they are blocked from seeing vehicles coming in the opposite direction causing the bulk of the accidents, as well as many near misses.

A Possible Solution

As such, one possible solution is to remove the traffic light at the intersection of Alhambra and Granada and replace it with a traffic circle. This will ensure a more continued flow of traffic in all directions and preventing a large backlog of vehicles, creating a shield.

This would alleviate the issue, but a full solution might require three separate traffic circles to ensure safer crossing at the three main troubled Granada intersections, Alhambra, North Greenway and Obispo. All three cross streets experience a high rate of cut-through traffic at morning and evening rush hour, which is when the bulk of accidents seem to be taking place.

A similar solution can be found on Segovia Street, where sister circles can be found at Coral Way and at Biltmore Way.

The idea has been pitched to the Mayor, who is still awaiting the Chief’s response. Hudak is currently on a two-week vacation leave.

Crime In North Gables

Crime numbers in North Gables have continued rising over the last few months. Although residents in the area have seen a spike, the official numbers seem to remain the same.

Fernandez himself has reported incidents over the last two years. In one particular case he reported directly to Hudak about drugs being used on his street, Hudak explained that “we are working on it I will let you know when we have something to report.” However, no one ever contacted Fernandez for a statement or details of what he witnessed, begging the question, how can a crime be investigated if no one knows what was done and by who?

In another instance of a break-in of a vacant property, the responding officer asked that no report be written as there was no way to catch the culprit and nothing of value was stolen.

So, is crime under-reported?

Other concerns residents have reached out to Gables Insider about are the large number of packages stolen and the lack of visibility of Police. In some blocks weeks go by without seeing a Police car.

This was a recent topic of discussion at Lago’s Town Hall where residents brought up the issue. Hudak explained there that the department is fully staffed, thanks to the efforts and cooperation of the Commission, and that staffing is not an issue.

Monthly Crime Reports

For years, the City Commission received monthly crime reports from prior Police Chiefs and the Public Safety Director. Since Hudak took office, the monthly crime reports to the Commission ceased. The Commission is being kept in the dark of the realities of crime in the City.

To be clear, we are not speaking of violent crime; however package theft and smaller crimes still leave behind victims and tear the fabric of safety in our community.

City Manager Involvement

Fernandez had been requesting a meeting with the Chief to address his safety concerns and those brought to his attention by several residents. His requests for a meeting had long been ignored, until City Manager Peter Iglesias replied on the Chief’s behalf informing Fernandez that no meeting would be taking place. He blew Fernandez off by diminishing Gables Insider‘s media standing from a formal news source and publication and instructing him to direct, “Any questions for stories for your online newsletter should be addressed to our Communications Director Martha Pantin.”

Fernandez, a Coral Gables resident, seemingly has lost his rights as a resident and is not allowed to address concerns he has as a resident with the appropriate City staff, being required to funnel all concerns through the City’s spokesperson.

Salvadore Park Concerns

Fernandez’s request for a meeting also included concerns over safety at Coral Gables’ busiest park, Salvadore Park. Over the course of the year, an ice cream vendor had repeatedly been parking on the street to sell ice cream to park patrons. However, Coral Gables City Code requires a permit and approval by the City Commission to do so. It also requires that the vendor be parked in an assigned spot. This vendor was parking on the street while placing children and families in harm’s way with the large amount of traffic on the surrounding streets.

Ice cream vendor blocking northbound traffic lane on Columbus Boulevard in front of Salvadore Park

Iglesias informed Fernandez that, “while we are aware that the ice cream truck does come by, our officers can’t issue a citation unless they witness the issue directly. It is not illegal for an ice cream truck to use our streets.” The vendor was within the eyesight of two Coral Gables off duty officers at all times, who never took any action.

Fernandez requested a meeting with Chief Hudak, Community Recreation Director Fred Couceyro and Development Services Director Suramy Cabrera in order to work out a solution. In a prior conversation with Couceryro, Fernandez had discussed the possibility of the City partnering with the vendor to have a full time designated spot at the Park in order to offer the service, while also assigning her a safe location from which to sell. The Manager vetoed the potential meeting.

Gables Insider has since come into possession of an email from the Chief to the vendor on April 30th, where he informs her that “I will be happy to meet with you to discuss anything we can do to provide assistance for you.” He adds, “We are a City Government that will always be there for advice and assistance to those in need. And I look forward to meeting you.”

The vendor, who is not a resident and is breaking City Code, is able to secure a meeting. However, a resident seeking the City’s assistance to address safety concerns is denied and ignored by the Chief and the Manager, despite requests from the Mayor, as previously reported.

Weiner and Salerno

In 2014, Police Chief Dennis Weiner and City Manager Pat Salerno had similar issues. Weiner was reluctant to admit that crime was on the rise in the City. He spoke at a Crime Watch meeting in the Gables, just a week before his resignation, where he reported that crime was not an issue in Coral Gables. Salerno tried to prevent the Commission from learning the truths about traffic accidents on Ponce de Leon Boulevard. Both resigned within five months of each other.

At the time, Hudak was a Major who was the whistleblower on the realities of what was taking place in both cases.

His status as a whistleblower almost cost him his promotion to Chief of Police, if it weren’t for the intervention of then Commissioner Vince Lago, and members of the community such as Fernandez who started resident petitions to appoint and keep Hudak as Police Chief.

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22 thoughts on “Resident Safety Concerns Not A Priority For Police Chief Or City Manager

  1. Anyone who hasn’t seen an officer in weeks has been
    asleep or needs to get outside for some fresh air. As
    a resident of North Gables that walks every day, I see
    the police everywhere to the point that it feels like a
    surveillance state.

    Anyone who didn’t see a hit piece on Hudak coming
    after his confrontation with Lago regarding
    neighborhood safety aides (NSA) at Commission isn’t
    paying attention to the connection between this blog
    and Lago. Lo and behold, Lago won the round and
    NSA’s will continue with code enforcement according
    to the next commission agenda, lol. You’re also personally upset that you aren’t getting special attention. The most demanding residents that occupy more of staff’s time than any other residents feel that they are being ignored even though they are utilizing a disproportionate share of the taxpayers resources.

    You know very well that County has jurisdiction over
    the streets and I can tell you from personal
    experience that the streets you mention have all
    been reported and studied on multiple occasions
    throughout the years. I’m hopeful the County’s new
    Transportation leadership team will empower cities to
    address their issues.

  2. Ariel, I highly recommend you focus your efforts on the extremely low morale within the police force and their lack of confidence in their Chief of Police. I have close internal contacts within in the police department, who have all told me so. The morale is at an all time low due to the lack of career development and opportunity to move up the supervisory ladder. The Chief of Police continues to roadblock the officers and supervisors by bringing in outside personnel (i.e., Assistant Chiefs of Police – one just resigned) and rehiring retirees as part time employees. I would also recommend you do a public records request to see how many officers have left the agency while this Chief of Police has been in this position. The numbers will speak for themselves. I couldn’t believe how many officers have left. Our police force has always had an amazing reputation due to their stringent hiring and high morality, so why is the Chief looking elsewhere to fill top level positions within the organization? What message does this send to the rank and file. Please do your homework. We need to get these issues fixed before we continue to lose great officers. Thank you for your efforts in exposing these issues us residents face. Keep fighting the fight; I appreciate your efforts. Perhaps a vote of no confidence for the Chief of Police is in order.

  3. Yesterday, another accident in the corner of LeJeune and Minorca.
    Please install traffic lights on 3 different intersections along LeJeune from 8th. Street to Alhambra both ways so the cars can’t speed because they need to break for the lights.

    There you go. Free advise.

    Thanks

  4. Ariel is slowly tapping into the political game that Coral Gables is.

    “At the time, Hudak was a Major who was the whistleblower on the realities of what was taking place in both cases.
    His status as a whistleblower almost cost him his promotion to Chief of Police, if it weren’t for the intervention of then Commissioner Vince Lago, and members of the community such as Fernandez who started resident petitions to appoint and keep Hudak as Police Chief.”

    SERIOUSLY??? Almost cost Hudak a promotion? He wasn’t getting promoted unless he got rid of Weiner. Hudak’s “Whistleblower on the realities that were taking place” were that Weiner was fudging the crime stats. Yet, the FBI and FDLE conducted an investigation into the allegations and their findings were posted in the Miami Herald on December 20, 2014, titled “FBI finds no foul play in crime stats”

    It didn’t matter because the damage was done. Weiner resigned and Hudak’s been chief ever since.
    I’m sure if Ariel keeps digging, the skeletons of Chief Hudak’s tenure will bury him and maybe his chances at running for Coral Gables Commission, again. Tread lightly, Ariel.

  5. Regarding street safety and traffic circles, the person really in charge is Public Works Director, Hermes Díaz. Hudak tracks the aftermath of bad street design. Ideally, both of them should be at the table along with Iglesias. Likely they are already studying but sitting on their findings until they brief commissioners.

  6. We had a neighborhood meeting with the chief of police Edward Hudak ten years ago regarding the traffic on Toledo Street south of Bird Road. Promises were made. I personally wrote formal work requests. The work request disappeared and nothing was ever done.

  7. While all these intersections definitely have their own problems, the one that co cerns me is on Alhambra traveling on south greenway. To go west, which would take you straight in to Duffy’s Alhambra has a curve in the road going south. To see an oncoming car is very difficult. Tue banyan trees totally obstruct the view. I wish someone would address that spot

  8. Answer: Mayor lives in 33146, not 33134. Previous mayors all lived in North Gables, the heart of the Gables, 33134. Ice cream vendor also at fault. Delivery & Passenger drivers constantly parking/ stopping in the middle of busy streets, such as Granada & Miracle Mile and there’s little police enforcement. These drivers need to be educated/reprimanded by the police. I think certain lobbyists encourage municipalities not to enforce driving rules including hand held cellphone use, which is deadly! Pinecrest has a law; the Gables should also adopt a similar law, but it has to be enforced. CCTV cameras with no points FINES on Granada another good idea to discourage bad drivers from passing through the Gables. Many Hialeah drivers would avoid Miami Springs, because their cops were tough. We need to go back to the old/ traditional ways. Give Gables residents warnings & ticket the out of towners. But both groups need to be pulled over. Or simply send the vehicle owner a ticket in the mail.

  9. Has anyone noticed when Lago has his open meetings and someone asks a question regarding traffic or crime Hudak rolls his eyes. It seems like he is biding his time for his fat pension. He has no reason to meet with Fernandez as he doesn’t want to deal with real work!

  10. Again and again ….the same issues but nothing is being done to correct them. The arrogance and incompetence displayed by City employees specifically the City Manager can not be tolerated and must be immediately addressed and resolved. I don’t think our current City Commission is capable to handle our problems. We have a serious management problem!!!!

  11. I have repeatedly asked personally and through emails to the commissioners for a pedestrian crosswalk to be put at north greenway and Granada. The golfers have a crosswalk and there is one at south Greenway and Granada but not at north Greenway for those who walk, jog, bike around the golf course. 3 crosswalks between Alhambra and Coral Way could possibly slow traffic down or discourage those using Granada as a through street.

  12. To address the issue of the accidents on Granada and it various intersections, the best course of action is to make a Public Records Request from the City’s website for all the accidents on those intersections. It is fairly easy to do, will take about 3 weeks and you will get your results. Asking the Chief of Police for this is taking the long route as he has many other priorities, and bashing him I think poisons the discussion on a very important issue

    I recently did this for the intersection of Coral Way, South Greenway and Anderson Rd, where accidents occur almost daily given the nature of the intersection and the high speed people drive on Coral Way. I was able to obtain Public Records on the accidents on that intersection for the last two years and as expected they were eye-popping, even considering the COVID days of low traffic. With that information, I secured a meeting with the city’s Transportation Advisory Board (TAB) and the City was able to find a compromise with the county to build a traffic circle there, as Coral Way is a Miami-Dade county road. It will take time as funding, etc. moves slows but at least something is being done and the issue is on the TAB’s agenda until it is resolved

    Being N. Greenway and Granada and Alhambra City of Coral Gables roads and not county roads I believe a solution can be archived faster. That if some funding can be secured

  13. Ariel Fernadez has evidently become “persona non grata” to some city employees (and that is after all what they are). In private business this type of behavior is usually cause for reprimands and or termination. In addition, failure to produce reports within deadlines or promised dates carries the same penalties.
    No residents’ request for information, clarifications, or properly requested meetings should be ignored
    by the residents hired help. Discrimination of any sort is not tolerable.

  14. While you are so concerned about traffic safety… Is anyone going to bring up the issue with these moronic bicycle riders who come west-east on Greenway and blow past the stop sign at Granada and get in front of incoming north-south traffic? Is anybody going to bring these idiots to task?

  15. Crime is underreported. On three separate occasions over the years police refused to open cases when my garage and yard were burglarized and property stolen.

    I oppose a traffic circle at Alhambra and Granada. South Florida drivers do not know how to take turns and yield to others at traffic circles. This behavior is fairly constant at Segovia and Coral Way, and it will create a traffic nightmare during rush hours at Alhambra/Granada and likely exacerbate the backup now attributed to the traffic light there.

  16. Enough talk! Action! Make the small-time lawyers/commissioners and the small-minded mayor fire
    the city manager, Peter Iglesias, and the chief of police, Edward Hukak!!!

  17. Article after article shows how we need a clean sweep of City Hall, FIRST TO GO is the City Manager. I have never heard so many negative comments about anyone in all my years. Lago where are you. Why are you not ridding us of this Napoleon acting manager. We do not want him. We do not want the arrogance from what is going on in Coral Gables. I called the manager’s office with an issue and the curt attitude I received from his assistant was appalling. How did such autocratic employees take over this City, which is a mess? It is one issue after another that you all are handling in an incompetent way.
    “We are a City Government that will always be there for advice and assistance to those in need”. This is total crap from the crap leadership we have in this City. People, we are banding together to finally wipe out all this incompetence and this self serving group next election. Join Us !!!

  18. Grenada Blvd at DeSoto Plaza has always been a concern for me. Grenada is a thru street with no yield or stop sign in either direction. The side streets have stop signs. But upon entering the intersection, drivers treat it as a traffic circle, expecting that drivers on Grenada will yield to them. Painting the road to show the continuous lanes on Grenada might alert drivers that they are crossing into the path of north and south bound traffic.

  19. The time has come for more residents to start requesting information about the many blunders this insecure administration continues to facilitate; cost overruns in projects like the new police building to the tune of millions, what does the communications director and her invisible department do for a salary significantly higher than her predecessor the city manager did not want and literally forced her out of the position besides arrogantly pushing back on everything her master, the insecure city manager, feels threatened by, the rubber stamping of developer zoning whims, the deterioration of our city’s quality of life, walk around and see it for yourself, walk around downtown and see the many empty storefronts, the filfthy and downtrodden alleys, deteriorated utility poles, street lights out, the days spent by the city attorney’s bloated staff trying to figure out, unsuccesully, how to edge Gables Insider out of the news sourcing because the city manager and other “sensitive” officials and administrators dislike being exposed and attempt to oppress differing views not to their liking, reminiscent of third-world leadership. The more facts I read and am able to validate with insiders in the city, the more disgusting it becomes. Too many are milking the city for undeserved paychecks and working to serve the interests of outsiders, not the residents, the true stakeholders. The objective is one; rid our city administration of incompetence, arrogance, error-making staff and ensure they understand this is not a kingdom as they work for the residents. It is our right to question and audit those that we have entrusted to guard our hen house, even though many times it seems we entrusted foxes. Simple public records requests emails to the city attorney will trigger the process and ensure the blood pressure immediately rises ifor many in City Hall. What are we waiting for?

  20. The same thing happens in the corner of LeJeune and Minorca and I have seen acccident after accident because I live in the corner of LeJeune and Navarre, which by the way, have had a number of accidents also.
    First factor, speeding, people driving on Le Jeune think they are on a racetrack, each way. I witness myself the atrocities drivers do when passing by my house wishing that there was a camera to capture those drivers, or better, place an officer or even, I volunteer to speed record the infractors.

  21. The Chief is afraid to meet with you Fernandez! Too many items in your cart that he has to pay for.

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