Miami Officials Ignore DDA Member's Illegal Parking Lots

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Brad Knoefler
Nitin Motwani runs illegal parking lots and the city of Miami lets him.
Nitin Motwani is one of those multi-millionaire Miami guys you may have never heard of, but he has the kind of suction at Miami city hall that allows him to do whatever he wants. As principal of the Falcone Group, Motwani owns several properties in the Park West neighborhood of Overtown. He uses the parcels, which combined total seven acres, to make money by providing parking to people going to the performing arts center and nightclubs in the area. Of course, Motwani doesn't have permission from the city to run his parking operations.

So when the Miami Police department instituted a zero tolerance policy against illegal parking lots a couple of months back, Grand Central nightclub owner Brad Knoefler was incensed that none of Motwani's parcels were shut down. But the free lot Knoefler offered Grand Central's patrons? Yeah, that one was closed.

See Knoefler doesn't have an extensive real estate portfolio like Motwani. Nor does he have the cache to be named to the Downtown Development Authority's board like Motwani. And Knoefler isn't the guy proposing to build a hokey $20 billion, nine-block project dubbed the Miami Worldcenter by Motwani and his business partners. Sheesh, Motwani is such a great private citizen, the city commission granted him a conflict of interest waiver so he could remain on the DDA and negotiate the Miami Worldcenter development deal with the city.

But give Knoefler credit. He's not going to let Motwani get away with it. He notified one of Motwani's favorite city commissioners, Marc Sarnoff, that it is time to walk the ethical talk. Although I'm sure Sarnoff is too busy figuring out which one of his Coconut Grove houses he will be sleeping in this week.
Dear Commissioner Sarnoff,

As the district 2 Commissioner we are writing to you to request your support in ending the special treatment of Nitin Motwani, DDA Board member and principal for the Miami World Center project, which owns nearly all of the surrounding land in my neighborhood and who has a history of receiving special treatment and favors from the City.

Consider this:

- Mr. Motwani's properties have consistently been the most dilapidated and run down properties in the neighborhood. Despite nearly two years of calling code enforcement for collapsing fences, illegal barbed wire, and lots overgrown with weeds, Mr. Motwani has failed to comply with the most basic of property owner's responsibilities and continues to ignore dozens of code violations on his properties, thus spitting in the face of local residents and voters.

- Mr. Motwani last summer received a conflict of interest waiver from the City Commission, despite our objections and his poor record being a good citizen, evidenced by the dilapidated state of his properties.

In fact when Miami Today named him "The Achiever" last year, we wrote them stating that the only thing he has achieved was the destruction the quality of life for thousands of new taxpaying and voting residents in the Park West area of Downtown Miami.

- Recently the City of Miami Police department launched a "zero tolerance" policy and closed every illegal lot in the neighborhood EXCEPT those lots on property owned by Mr. Motwani.

I was personally threatened with arrest for "operating a business without a license" whereas the lots on Mr. Motwani's property, which have no Certificate of Use and No Occupational license (and thus clearly are operating a business without a license) have been allowed to operate for the past three months, making an estimated $30-40,000 in revenue during this period.

- At a cost of more than $40,000, including $4,499.00 to the City of Miami for Certificate of Use fees, we have fulfilled all the requisite legal requirements for a public parking facility and have been trying for more than two weeks to amicably request that the illegal lots be shut down by the Police, as they are having a direct financial impact on our new (and legal) business.

Mr. Motwani has no intention of even applying for permits to make these lots legal, as I would have been notified by certified post as an adjacent property owner.

Not only has this special treatment by the City of a DDA Board member had directly measurable damages on a legal, taxpaying business, it sends a strong message to the general public that breaking the law is OK, as long as you contribute to elected officials campaigns and sit on a city board.

How can we ever make this a world class city and attract much needed investment for economic development when blatant favoritism like this is allowed to occur?

Please help us in doing the right and ethical thing by ending this special treatment by a well connected City Board member.

I have no problem with fair and just competition on a level playing field where everyone pays the City fees and get the required permits, but allowing these lots to remain open to the detriment of a legal, taxpaying business is just plain wrong.

Brad Knoefler

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