Home > Uncategorized > Sale of Miami Condo Collapse Beachfront Land Shines Light On NJ’s “Rebuild Madness”

Sale of Miami Condo Collapse Beachfront Land Shines Light On NJ’s “Rebuild Madness”

Billionaire Real Estate Firm To Purchase Land For More Than $120 Million

Judge Using Revenue For Victims Compensation To Create Future Victims

“The capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them” ~~~ Marx/Lenin

Part One of Two

Part One today will briefly update the status and explore the possible causes of the deadly Miami condominium collapse last year.

Part Two will then explore the implications for NJ.

I)  Beachfront Land For Sale

The beachfront land at the site of last year’s deadly condo collapse in Miami, where 98 people died, will be sold at auction on May 24. 

The land sale was approved by a local Florida Judge

Despite some opposition to the sale, the court will use the money to compensate the owners of the 136 apartments destroyed and the families affected by the Champlain Towers South Tragedy.

Billionaire Hussain Sajwani, of the Dubai-based DAMAC Properties, bid $120 million to purchase the oceanside property at 8777 Collins Ave.

The revenue from the land sale is part of a $997 million settlement to compensate victims’ families.

Of course, the NYT makes no mention of the perversity of a settlement that compensates innocent victims by creating future victims.

The settlement will do this in at least 2 ways directly: 1) by selling the land – unconditionally – to a developer who will build another condo that will collapse or be inundated by rising seas, creating future victims; and 2) by releasing condo owners from any liability for negligence, which sends a perverse message to other condo owners that they can neglect maintenance and coastal risks with impunity, again creating more future victims. There are additional major flaws of a settlement before the accident investigation is complete, causes are known and reforms are enacted. Surely, responsible corporations and public officials have gotten off the hook and will not be held accountable, again leading to even more future victims.

II) Will Redevelopment Occur Before Accident Investigation Completed and Causes Are Known?

Lost in all the money are the facts that, as the NY Times parenthetically notes (I think they call this “burying the lede”):

The National Institute of Standards and Technology is still investigating what caused the 13-story, 135-unit building to partially crumble in the middle of the night, a review that could take years. […]

As part of their earlier settlement, the condo owners were released from any liability for negligence in the building’s maintenance. Under Florida law, they could have been sued for up to the value of their units.

Hey, it could be worse: the Florida legislature could – just like NY and NJ did in providing immunity from COVID liability to nursing homes – simply pass a law waiving liability for all beachfront property.

But I want to focus briefly on the property sale to a billionaire real estate developer, who surely isn’t spending at least $120 million for 1.88 acres of beachfront property to create bird habitat.

Obviously, he will seek to build another high rise condo there.

It is insane to rebuild on that site, especially before the investigation of the cause of collapse is complete and the cause is known.

Subsurface conditions, land subsidence, salt water intrusion, and climate driven rising sea levels and deadly storms make future disaster and/or collapse inevitable.

III)  Will Subsurface Conditions and Climate Change Be Part Of the Investigation?

The media initially reported on climate and subsurface conditions as potential causes of the collapse.

But that angle on the story was immediately suppressed, given the multi-billion dollar devastation it would cause if the implications for south Florida coastal development were fully understood.

A Washington Post story outlined these issues:

  • Engineer warned of ‘major structural damage’ years before Florida condo building collapsed

Investigators will probe whether salt, humidity and other environmental conditions also could have weakened the Champlain South structure or if other problems such as a sinkhole-like collapse in the ground underneath the building led to the disaster. …

Some local officials and others interviewed said that the 40-year review process should be made more rigorous and that the inspections should be more frequent. They noted that the checklist does not include an examination of the ground under buildings such as Champlain Towers.

“It’s not just what’s happening above ground — it’s what happening below ground that counts,” Surfside Building Department chief James McGuinness, told reporters. According to McGuinness, the review is strictly focused on the structural load-bearing elements of the building and its electrical systems. [Note: not subsurface conditions]

Surfside Town Commissioner Eliana Salzhauer told reporters Friday that commissioners believed the process should be adjusted to include underground checks.

“They look for cracks in the concrete, but they really have no clue what’s going on beneath the ground,” said attorney David Haber, who specializes in construction and condominium law. “Who knows what it looks like below grade? That’s something that I think we are going to have to look at changing in South Florida, with the rising water table.” …

But Salzhauer said Surfside, like communities throughout South Florida, has been battling erosion. Many buildings have been constructed on reclaimed marshland.

“Remember, the water just doesn’t go where we see it,” Salzhauer said. “The water is underneath. Miami Beach has water underneath. There is water below us, and the water is above us. And we have to live in that precarious balance of having to build on what is essentially a big puddle of water.” …

DiMaggio Berger said that a “subsurface, structural issue” likely caused the collapse. “This building was on pilings buffeted by the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway,” she said. “We’ve got water coming at this thing from both sides.”

Now here’s where it gets really interesting.

In addition to these serious concerns about subsurface conditions, the research of a local professor had documented land subsidence at the site. This professor initially publicly suggested that land subsidence could have been a factor, but within 24 hours of making these comments, he walked them back: (WaPo)

On Friday, as officials and lawyers called for greater scrutiny of the ground underneath residential structures, The Post found that research indicating that the site of the Champlain building had been sinking was made public at least 3½ years ago, earlier than was previously known.

An academic study published in April 2020, which found that the building appeared to have been sinking during the 1990s, was first reported by USA Today on Thursday, after the tower collapsed. […]

Fiaschi’s co-author, a professor, Shimon Wdowinski of Miami’s Florida International University, told The Post that he had presented research in the past to Miami-Dade officials as part of a regional task force seeking to tackle climate change but could not recall whether the subsidence in the area of Champlain Towers South had been discussed.

Leaders of the task force and a senior Miami-Dade official who participates on it declined to comment when asked if they had been aware of the findings.

Fiaschi stressed in an email to The Post that the reason for the collapse of Champlain Towers was unclear, saying it was “not possible to understand which are the causes of the collapse, or if the subsidence we detected have some sort of contribution to the failure of the building.”


How could a professor possibly “not recall” such an important research presentation?

Why would leaders of the climate task force decline to comment?

Why is the researcher running away from the findings and implications of his research?

Some folks even went so far as to try to immediately shut down that whole line of subsurface investigation and instead focus on traditional building engineering and building codes:

Other analysts on Friday said focus should remain on the building’s structural integrity.


Make the collapse unique to this one building and thereby ignore millions of other vulnerable buildings.

So, the scope of the investigation by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) investigation is critical.

Will it include subsurface conditions and climate change impacts?

A NIST press release on the study vaguely hints at the not only the local but national implications of the investigation:

There are millions of high-rise condominium units in Florida alone, many of them near the ocean or aging. While a NIST investigation is intended to identify the cause of the Champlain Towers South collapse, it could also uncover potential issues for other similar buildings nearby and throughout the nation. 

When NIST says the investigation may impact “buildings throughout the nation”, that includes New Jersey.

In order to understand the scope of NIST investigation, I just sent these questions to the NIST press officer, Jennifer Huergo, with a copy to NJ Spotlight reporter Jon Hurdle in hopes of prompting some investigation on his part of the NJ implications I will discuss in Part 2:

Hi Jennifer – I just left a message on your phone.

My questions are:

1. Does the scope of the NIST investigation of the Miami condo collapse include subsurface conditions?

Early press reports mentioned land subsidence, subsurface geology, reclaimed wetlands, salt water intrusion, possible sinkhole formation, and erosion, oxidation, and water damage from increasing sea level rise/storm surge.

Are these factors being considered?

Please confirm.

2. In terms of timing: will the NIST investigation Report be issued publicly before land use redevelopment approvals are issued for any redevelopment of the property?

I note that the land will be auctioned on May 24, with an opening bid price of $120 million (from a real estate firm). I assume they are not spending that kind of money to create habitat!

Thank you,

Part Two, on how this all relates to NJ is coming soon!

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