Protest Fails To Stop Project; Big Tree To Move





In the end, it wasn’t even close.

Even the whisper campaign with tinges of anti-Semitism failed to stop the new waterfront complex. The flyers, the petition and relentless assault on the Internet failed to get traction. The speeches at countless meetings fell on deaf ears.

Fort Lauderdale Commissioners voted 3-1 in the early morning hours Wednesday to move a unique tree to build a unique project.


marina lofts

Marina Lofts


A small but vocal group of citizens failed to convince commissioners to leave the 60-foot rain tree in place and  kill the apartments.

Before the vote, developer Asi Cymbal agreed to cut the units from 960 to 856.

Cymbal had promised to keep the rents low and tie the building in distinctive ways into the New River with walkways and open vistas.

But the tree, for years hidden on a private property and inaccessible to the public, threatened to block the development.

Opponents were unmoved by Cymbal’s plan to spend up to $1 million to move the tree, said to be the largest specimen of rain tree in Florida.

The protests against the project were puzzling, especially since numerous other projects in Fort Lauderdale have been approved with hardly a comment. Especially since Cymbal pledged to make a great effort to save the tree.

A rumor dogged the opponents that some were being paid to stop Cymbal’s project by the owner of another downtown rental building, fearful of competition.  It was unproven.

There were also anti-Semitic and anti-Miami comments muttered about Cymbal. The developer, who was born in Israel and raised in Brooklyn (Another strike against him among some circles in Fort Lauderdale!), has built projects in Miami.

Cymbal had the last laugh.  A year of controversy proved to be just that: A lot of noise.

Commissioners weighed the protests against Cymbal’s promise to move the tree to a more accessible location. Plus the project will add numerous construction jobs to the area.

(Years ago, I covered the hearing of a developer who ran into trouble with removing trees on his property.  The trees were blocking his project.  So he just bulldozed them down, paid a fine and built.  Cymbal is making an expensive effort to save one tree. He could have just poisoned it and saved $1 million!)

Mayor Jack Seiler and Commissioners Bruce Roberts and Bobby DuBose voted to approve the project.  Commissioner Dean Trantalis voted against it.  Commissioner Romney Roberts abstained because of a conflict – his law office represented the Water Taxi, which would benefit from the project by increased business.


An early story on the project is here.

8 Responses to “Protest Fails To Stop Project; Big Tree To Move”

  1. Voter says:

    Mayor Seiler, we will remember!

  2. Ghost of McLovin says:

    These continued ‘protests’ to block development end up costing the developer and the local taxpayer considerable amounts of money. There is always a solution to save a tree, a golf course, or some other undeveloped parcel: buy it. The assault on property rights in this town is abhorrent. Don’t want a building near Stranahan House: Buy the lot. Don’t want a tree moved: Buy the lot. Don’t want an Ikea or Walmart or condo built near your home: Buy the lot.

  3. Kermit says:

    Those who worked on either side this campaign should be proud of themselves, one side however, can sleep at night. Development at all costs is not good for our economy or quality of life. Their site plan could have easily been adjusted to avoid the tree. Pigs at the trough.

  4. Gerald S says:

    Ghost of McLovin is exactly right. A study done some years ago estimated that $25,000 of the price of a unit was for regulatory hoops that developers jump through. It is why rental and purchase prices are so high down here.

  5. Ha Ha Ha says:

    At least Trantalis didn’t sell out. I hope Trantalis moves onward and upward. As for Fort Lauderdale, it’s a tragic tale of out-of-control development.

  6. City Activist Robert Walsh says:

    The real story here is did you all get a glimpse of the attorney representing the project. (Toothacker)… I was impressed….


    That would be Stephanie Toothaker, who always impressed me and many others. She has become one of Broward’s leading lawyers since leaving her job as special counsel to then-Sen. Bob Graham. She was also one of the lead counsels for the Kerry and Obama campaigns.

    Despite Toothaker’s role as an advocate for Democrats, she works at Tripp Scott, a big Fort Lauderdale Republican firm.

  7. Steve Glassman says:

    Correction: Dean Trantalis did not vote against the project (he voted for the project); he voted against moving the tree prior to that vote (the other three voted to move the tree).


    The first vote was the key vote. The project didn’t get built unless you moved the tree. Trantalis is trying to have it both ways.

  8. Alice McGill says:

    Maybe the tree could be moved to Dania Beach. US 1 in Dania has mostly old, decrepit buildings and empty lots, inadequate parking, and trees. Palm tree after palm tree after palm tree for the drivers headed for somewhere else to look at. Perhaps the mayor and his wife could fill in the holes they are making at city hall with the roots of the rain tree and the branches could provide more cover for the tricks they are trying to play on the residents and taxpayers. Waste products from the Duke political machine could fertilize the tree.