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Longtime Brickell Residents Say Restaurateur Plays Dirty to Kick Them Out

Categories: Unreal Estate

potdbrickell.jpg
Mayra Baruh, a single mom from Nicaragua, has raised two daughters in the heart of Brickell, in a diminutive building in the shadow of ever-taller towers sprouting up around the financial district. Gretel Hebbert, her oldest daughter, now 27, remembers a childhood of low-rise residences occupied by fellow recent immigrants, parties with friends, and people helping one another with offers of food or clothing.

"It was a neighborhood," Hebbert tells Riptide. "Everybody took care of each other... It's not what it is now."

For years her family's building has been one of the last old residential structures sandwiched among dozens of trendy new restaurants and high-rise towers. But change is coming, and Hebbert and Baruh say the restaurateur leading the charge is playing dirty to force longtime residents out.

"It's been horrible," Baruh told Riptide in Spanish. "Explain to him," she told her daughter, "the mess he's made for us."

The trouble began in February, when Jeffrey Chen, a successful Hong Kong-born chef and businessman responsible for adjacent restaurants Momi Ramen and Sumi Yakitori, bought the property and promptly began construction work.

On February 13, termination notices were handed out to residents, all of whom were on month-to-month leases. Many vacated promptly, accepting a payout from Chen to assist with moving costs; others were more reluctant -- but none more so than Baruh and her two daughters in apartment 7.

They say they've made their whole lives in this building and have little money to uproot -- Baruh works in the kitchen at Rosinella, whose property is also owned by Chen, and Hebbert is a cosmetologist. They say they simply want more time. But when Chen realized they weren't leaving quickly, things got ugly, they say.

First, all of the building's exterior lights were shut off, prompting safety concerns. The construction Chen began was excessively loud, and the dust it produced incited asthma attacks for Baruh and Hebbert. The laundry machine was also cut, they claim, and Chen distributed No Parking signs to tenants who for years had parked in the building lot, and towed the vehicle of one resident who happened to be out of town. Then, on March 5, Baruh received a ten-day eviction notice.

Chen, for his part, says he has treated the residents fairly. Approached by Riptide inside Momi Ramen, the chef denied he turned off exterior lights or ordered cars towed. The laundry machine, he said, was broken when he bought the building.

"We basically told them: 'Look, you don't even have a legal lease at all,' " he says. "We only have two left, and those two we have to go into court to do the eviction, everything... From my heart, yes, I treat them very, very fair."

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56 comments
fuckmiami
fuckmiami

Miami is trash. I can't wait to leave. 

hippieatheart
hippieatheart

I truly believe in the kindness of humanity but this is just down right nasty, but I'm astonished at the mean comments below.  Do you guys realize how unkind you guys are being? I just can't believe it.  Is your life that horrible that you in turn project negativity. I can see why now Miami is so cut throat, I don't really think I'll be here any longer yes it's beautiful and can't beat the weather but I rather go back home, to Rhode Island this is more of a permanent vacation destination.

goodbusiness
goodbusiness

I own 30 properties around the miami area and I would never do this to

my tenants, especially good tenants they are hard to come by in a very
transient city, which I can deduct by the time these people have been
there.

I definitely would have notified them ahead of time, business men need
to have ethics and professionalism. Also take into consideration that
this is how I make my money by rental properties I have respect for my
tenants.

Both parties here are at fault hopefully though this doesn't
generalize people's views about rental properties not all owners are
greedy, selfish business men or women.

Flor
Flor

What I really want to say about this situation is I applaude these people for standing up  to him. I personally I would have ranned the moment I receive an eviction notice.  That's a lesson, for people every where to stand up for your rights and we all have a voice even if we don't think so. Also not to allow people to bully you, even if it means going through an intimidating legal process. Never, underestimate people just because they're not at your economic level.

Emma_Williams
Emma_Williams

From a PR standpoint I would do damage control ASAP.  There really isn't anyway for them to spin this to his favor.  I would imagine this man has a team that advises him to do things. To give him the benefit of the of the doubt he was probably told it was okay for him to do that.


I would immediately fire the person or parties involved, I would publicly apologize in a follow up article or something along those lines, make sure tenants will be okay. because I fell like things can only get worse for this man legally, I can't imagine doing construction with tenants inside is legal.


It's only a matter of time when these people will be approached by a greedy lawyer looking to get money. 

pamii_711
pamii_711

This article just proves that some people value money over anything else. It is sad. I understand the importance of a growing urban community, but an actual community is needed for this to be a success. The family's that have lived in this area for years built the foundation for Brickell and deserve the right to continue living there. Brickell is their home and no person or any amount of money should force them to relocate. Miami is an expensive enough city to live in, if one has found the means to live in a certain area for a long period of time, why should they have to pick up their things and move? Chen needs to learn what a community is before he tries to make one grow.

Lilly2
Lilly2

Trendy doesn't make a neighborhood. A neighborhood is the schools, the families and the working class, non welfare residents that the new business mentality  obviously disdain. For any long time resident of Miami knows what this area has quickly exploded with oversized buildings that don't even fit in the narrow streets. Whatever! The city of Miami is busting at the seams and the poor planning is nothing new. But Mr. Chen a rich immigrant investor, probably not even allowed to vote, is trying to boot out long time citizens who aren't on welfare, and who work in the restaurants and venues the likes of you like to visit. See the other side of Miami and wake up, these people earn a living decently.

If you think that a 15 day notice is justifiable you are living in lala land and compound the homelessness problem in our city. Wake up and look around Miami is more than sipping drinks and buying $30.00 plates of pasta. Maybe in Hon Kong they do it this way, but we Miamians have a voice.

By the way, $ is an issue when minimum wage is paid to many in the service industry, but these people have more class than Mr. Chen and his millions will ever had. They just wanted to have enough time without two industrial-size dumpsters blocking their parking, lights out all around the building, a concrete mixer churning all day long directly in front of their house,10 feet piles  of dangerous  debris from the demolished apartments blocking their hallway, no water for a week etc. You don't have the facts; this is bad business.  (too bad the pictures weren't printed)

By the way, all this happened while their rent was paid. I wonder how you would react if you had to climb over dangerous debris to get to your parking space blocked by industrial-size dumpsters to discovered your car had been towed while your rent was paid?

peach21
peach21

peach21

I'm a resident in Atlanta Ga and reading about this case break my heart to see so

many unjustice in this case; how can you give someone notice of eviction in such a short time especially if that resident have lived there for so long and had paid her rent on time for all of these years, and now she doesn't have where to go yet with her two daugthers is getting thrown out on the street.

stevie869
stevie869

After reading this article and all of the comments below I've come to the conclusion that most of you just don't care about an individual's life let alone a family.. I'm not trying to act like this hits me personally, but I feel like most of you need to wake the f**k up and put yourself in someone else shoes. "She has no case.." "Are we suppose to feel sorry for her?" ....why would you shoot down someone who is in a struggle. So quick to not care about someone who can potentially end up on the street only adding to the homeless count we already have.. You don't have to care or do anything about this problem but seriously what are you gaining from that negative talk..

There's more here than just a rich man buying out property and removing folks from their home (which sounds like an antagonist to your typical disney plot). We shouldn't allow money to blind our morals. I might not have the answer to this problem, but I do know as a society we will fail if we cannot unite for something so obviously wrong. If I can ask one thing from all my Miamian neighbors is to consider your neighbors perspective. Miami can only grow and whether that development is for the greater good of the people is only up to the people not a person.


Whatever if you reply negatively to this, I only wanted to put my two cents out there. peace&love is all i got.

Lockey94
Lockey94

this article doesn't even cover the full story! there is way more than just 10 measly paragraphs. so you all think its perfectly okay to harass and bully people out of their homes? this man harassed this woman at her own JOB! an entire week without water and no AC is horrible mistreatment. its inhumane. this family wanted nothing to do with money they wanted to leave with dignity. when do you ever see that happen anymore? since when can you put a price on human lives????. And to add to this how many of the people who have commented understand what it is to raise a family in the same home for 20 years as a single mother with two daughters. None, but yet your quick to judge that they`re out for money. On the surface Mr. Cheng may come off as respectable but no one has experienced his lies first hand.

verdisvioletta
verdisvioletta

Are we supposed to feel sorry for people who don't have the income to stay living in an area that has seen the real estate market appreciate? These people are MONTH TO MONTH tenants and OWN NOTHING. This is NOT subsidized housing. The owner owes all of the tenants NOTHING, but to be a good guy, he offered the tenants money to defray moving expenses and help with the hardship of relocating. Now New Times wants to slam him for being a monster who is ousting low-income tenants to make a property he bought profitable? What a junk article. 

Michael Tavera
Michael Tavera

Dude this is exactly what happened to me with the high rise craze going on again.

Leah Thibodeau
Leah Thibodeau

This is a bullshit article. You only need 15 days notice to legally boot someone out who rents month-to-month. She has no case whatsoever.

lovemymiami
lovemymiami

Yeah, this sounds like someone trying to extort money out of the new owner - not surprised MNT picked up this "news".  It even states that Mr. Chen helped people with moving costs.  How ridiculous....

Joseph Mazon
Joseph Mazon

When was Brickell EVER a 'neighborhood"? Until it became the trendy destination it is now, most Miamians couldn't even find it on the map. This woman is probably holding out for more money and the Miami New Times is feeding the story. I support Mr. Chen in this situation. Either way, these folks HAVE to go.

Jay Lee Mendez
Jay Lee Mendez

If I buy a building...1. I want to get rid of tenants bc I don't know them. 2. Bc I want to make renovations in apartments to bring up prices. She's lucky they haven't fired her, that would be dirty.

frankd4
frankd4 topcommenter

............the difference between an urban area being community oriented or not relys on the stubborness against gentrification - which is why jorge perez killed the real MIAMI yes he made a fortune selling to drug kingpins and foreign fraudsters who buy for cash money - but he did NOT build a single community

jane jacobs fought against robert moses and greenwich village was born - today organically it is one of the MOST desireable COMMUNITIES in NYC to live - not because of the builder(s) but because of one very stubborn resident who ultimately won wideranging support

MIAMI simply does not have the same type of people so it is doomed to fail

Jay Lee Mendez
Jay Lee Mendez

Why is this a story...bc the owner is famous. This happens all the time all over America. Every time a building is bought, old tenants are kicked out, and they are never given a pay out... so I'm confused?

lovemymiami
lovemymiami

@stevie869 I don't think the point is to shoot down someone in a struggle here.  Its more about city growth, reality and irresponsible journalism aimed at crucifying a business man.

Lets be honest, cities grow.  No one wants to "force" someone from their home, but the City is just as responsible.  As luxury towers go up in Brickell, property value goes up.  Along with property value, property TAXES go up.  So if someone purchases a small building like this, there is no way they could afford to pay the property taxes alone collecting rent from existing tenants being charged at 1970's and 80's rent rates.  You have to develop and unfortunately, this means that people sometimes have to relocate.

I am curious as to how the PREVIOUS owner handled the tenants.  It is more likely that he took his money and ran without notifying his tenants that he was selling and they were going to need to start looking for another home.  I see no wrong by the new owner here... 

John3_16
John3_16

@verdisvioletta  Wow whenever you are faced with an injustice don't complain or bitch about it. Thank God that you are blessed and have never had gone through an issue like this.  The point here is that they didn't want money they wanted time. Instead this man decided to use pressuring tactics on these people in a short amount of time.  Since when is it okay to pick on the less fortunate then you are. I pray that you never have to deal with discrimination, terrorization, and harassment.  God forbid someone bursts your blind little bubble. Life has a funny way of turning tables on people.  Also no-one is saying that he is not allowed to make his property profitable just not in greedy uncompassionate way. Although I completely agree that the fault really lies on the original owners for not telling them what was going on, Chen had a choice to correct that he instead to him it was all about dollar signs. 

Lilly2
Lilly2

@verdisvioletta   Mr. Chen said he offered money, but they actually had their deposit, and their last month's rent. It was their own money he was offering to them. What a junkie comment.

sparklyqtpie
sparklyqtpie

And you a bullshit kind of human being, if you think it takes only fifteen days to find a new place in this overly priced housing market for the working class your highly delusional. And its people in your way of thinking that allow society to believe that this behavior is okay legally, it might be but ETHICALLY AND MORALLY she absolutely has a case.

Lincoln
Lincoln

@lovemymiami  hahaha extort money if these people really wanted to extort money they would have hired an attorney long time ago. I walked by this place when everything was going on and I honestly thought there weren't any residents living in the building anymore because the building was literally being gutted out. I could not believe my eyes. I became curious as to how the eviction case was coming along I did extensive research I was able to find some information in the county clerk's website the real people extorting money from this man are the original owners of the property as to it sold for 5 million dollars what a load of scam, the contractors who are getting paid to renovate the building , and the lawyers charging ludicrous fees for their time clearly they are only are interested in themselves because they are all getting paid hefty sums of money for all of this.  Not taking into consideration, the fact that although its a property it was a multi FAMILY complex where these people called it their HOME what do they loose by just giving them time to uproot their lives? NOTHING. They are just money hungry monsters, how horrible for these people to be caught in the middle of greedy people. Continue loving your miami but I can't wait until it screws you because it's just a matter of time the way things are going here.

Lilly2
Lilly2

@lovemymiami Mr. Chen offered their own deposit and last month's rent which THEY had paid anyway. He offered their own money to them. Get your facts straight.

Lilly2
Lilly2

Trendy doesn't make a neighborhood. A neighborhood is the schools, the families and the working class, non welfare residents you obviously disdain. For any long time resident of Miami knows what this area has so quickly exploded with oversized buildings that don't even fit in the narrow streets. Whatever! The city of Miami is busting at the seams so that is fine. But Mr. Chen a rich immigrant is trying to boot out long time citizens who aren't on welfare, and who work in the restaurants and venues the likes of you like to visit. See the other side of Miami and wake up, these people earn a living decently.

If you think that a 12 day notice is justifiable you are living in lala land and compound the homelessness problem in our city. Wake up and look around Miami is more than sipping drinks and buying $30.00 plates of pasta. Maybe in Hon Kong they do it this way, but we Miamians have a voice.

By the way, $ is an issue, but these people have more class than Mr. Chen and his millions will ever had. They just wanted to have enough time without two industrial-size dumpsters blocking their parking, lights out all around the building, a concrete mixer churning all day long directly in front of their house,10 feet  of debris from the demolished apartments blocking their hallway, etc. You don't have the facts; this is bad business.


RobG10
RobG10

Ah huh that's right what real world are you living in? I currrently reside at the Jade in Brickell and just the application process took me two weeks. Still wasn't done because all they need left to ask is a blood sample. That doesn't include me hunting and looking at places for what I wanted. 

If anything that law is archaic and it doesn't apply to "real world' standards especially in city where it doesn't provide rent control laws like New York does.

Lilly2
Lilly2

To be fired without cause would also be illegal. Although it is hard to believe, Miami is part of the United States where we do have US Constitution and labor laws.

ericccclark
ericccclark

Ghetto? It is a thriving, upscale neighborhood destined to become one of America's top urban markets. People are out walking, everyone from seniors to families with children. Brickell City Center is bringing in high end retail, more restaurants and a much needed movie theater. Most cities would do anything to have the success of Brickell. 

Lilly2
Lilly2

@frankd4 Some people do want to say, but unfortunately a large part of Miami is driven by money and who has the most of it, not by the sense of community.

ericccclark
ericccclark

@frankd4  Fail? Hardly. An American success story. People from all over the world are flocking to buy in the Brickell area as are many locals. New towers are selling out before they even begin construction and people are putting down hefty deposits to reserve units. The Brickell market is now moving west creating more than just a street but a unified neighborhood.

Omar_Fernandez
Omar_Fernandez

Pfft! Getta out here with your stupid comment go back to your celebrity driven world whether he's famous or not is irrelevant let's  look at the real matter at hand which is ill treatment of these tenants. 


See that's exactly what's wrong with Miami and you just proved people here are just worried about the superficial and appearances turning a blind eye to what really is going.  Not all Miamians are like you, you shouldn't even comment dumb ass giving us a bad name.  


What's even worse you have a picture of you and I'm assuming your baby or at least have a concept of family, how would you like it if you were your family going through this. SHM

Lilly2
Lilly2

That is the point, these stories are going on all around us and compound the homelessness problem, the money-laundering, etc. Where have the tenants gone? Have you ever been to the Miami Rescue Mission? Not all homeless men and women are drug addicts, many of them were just living paycheck to paycheck trying to earn maintain the bills.

Clearly when the rents quadruple in an area where people lived for 15 years paying a 800/month rent, these residents will not be able to pay.


There is a huge problem and cities who care for their citizens wouldn't allow immigrants with big money to flash their cash and build identical buildings with blue glass all over Brickell without allotting areas for the locals.

hippieatheart
hippieatheart

@RobG10

It's okay, I guess there are many times that I feel homesick, people here are rough around the edges I just haven't been able to identify myself in this city, and this story for whatever reason just hit me. Definitely, sending positive vibes to this family. 

Emma_Williams
Emma_Williams

@hippieatheart

Yes  your right but it all depends how much of a loss the issue can cost him so it really is a personal decision has to how much you value your reputation and/or assets.

This man is clearly a business man and it seems it's all about numbers so I don't know what to tell you. Sometimes bad publicity does hurt or creates a loss

lovemymiami
lovemymiami

@Lilly2 Actually, Florida is a right to work state.  Employers do not need ANY reason to fire an employee.

Lilly2
Lilly2

@ericccclark Right, but the workers in the restaurants? where would you suggest they live? Working in minimum wage jobs, perhaps we can bus them in like the migrant workers and take them out so they don't soil the streets, or why not let them go homeless? Oh well, as long as we don't see them while we eat our sushi and our veal, what do we care!


frankd4
frankd4 topcommenter

@Lilly2 @frankd4  


actually MOST of MIAMI is driven by scams and frauds


the baseball stadium was a scam


MIAMI is ground zero for insurance and medicare fraud


the high-rise luxury units ALL bought up by drug kingpins


the elected officials are ALL corrupt


the police are ALL corrupt


predatory towing and "screwing the tourist" are significant revenue sources for con men and miscreants


IF YOU want to stay you either have to ignore the disintegrated ethics and morals or join em


either become one more marielito member down here or else prepare to be taken by them when your turn comes - there is no community and never will be because it's everyone for themselves here

frankd4
frankd4 topcommenter

@ericccclark @frankd4  


here what i have:


narco king pins and their crews are FINANCIALLY fleeing their own county to safe havens like MIAMI whereas they purchase, many times under assumed names, sight-unseen at $800 pkus per square-foot, for ALL CASH, high-rise luxury condo units, paid by a difficult to trace WIRE TRANSFERs IN from foreign LLCs - money taken by the real estate developer as an UNsecured (at the risk of being LOST is the project is not completed) who have local elected officials and law enforcement including judges in their pocket


as these DRUG kingpins are typically HISPANIC (you do not see any french or german or english etc) they like JORGE PEREZ who can assure them the local law enforcement and judiciary will not bother their families if they come to live


these same DRUG kingpins do NOT live in NYC because the co-op boards ask too many personal questions AND the NYPD is the most advanced and sophisticated law enforcement and survailence network in the world - so mostly oil rich saudis and other uber-wealthy buy their residences there and not here which to them is a latino-american  wild-west show


1)the KEY to the buyers is the purchase money is NON-REFUNDABLE so if perez folds and does not complete the project the money is lost UNsecured and NO ONE legitimate would take that risk especially wealth people - so for big-time drug money which has to be parked secretly MIAMI is the place - legitimate money doesn't need to be put at risk like that


ONE SINGLE BUILDING in MIAMI has had more than two dozen federal judgement forefeitures to criminal convictions in the last five years - ALL NARCO-trans-shippers from south and latin america - with one drug kingpin owning five units in his secretary's name


2)the other KEY is when these units are sold they go DOWN in price, sometimes less than half, which indicated the original purchase price was artificially INFLATED, which is the price the drug kingpin pays for anonimity and local police laxity


so your GLITTERY and GOLDEN brickell is merely a drug kingpins HAVEN - for now - and those few others will take a hit in the coming crash


IF an exclusive area were really exclusive there wouldn't be so much CONSTRUCTION (do you know when the last time a "new" building was built on FIFTH AVENUE ? it's simply too exclusive to do !

RobG10
RobG10

@hippieatheart @RobG10 yeah I know what you mean, it's messed up when people with means take advantage or do not consider people.  And your right Miami is cut throat but hang strong there are good people in Miami that will help you out. Maybe what you need is a support group.

frankd4
frankd4 topcommenter

@lilly2 @frankd4  


not to mention the priceless value of the ORANGE BOWL that hosted super bowls and national college championships


alabama and joe namath lost to texas in the mid-60s national college championship there in the orange bowl but came back with the NYJets a few years later and beat favorite baltimore colts 16-9 in a game broadway joe "guaranteed" the jets would win


those locals who allowed parking on their lawns were as much part of the scene as cajun is part of nawlins


all i can say is it was hispanic elected officials who screwed their own hispanic people there in that transaction so no one else is to blame but themselves

lilly2
lilly2

@frankd4 @Lilly2 True :( The same thing that happened with that overblown piece of "architecture" the baseball stadium dwarfing everything around them. That neighborhood has always been a thriving community, working-class yes, not mega dirty money millionaires. But the officials have allowed that monstrosity to be erected in the name of "progress." Most of the people in that area wouldn't even attend any of those games, or perhaps wouldn't couldn't even afford them.


But the desire is to eventually push them out, tear down their modest houses and build high rises. Who cares where they go.



Has anyone stopped to think about the lack of infrastructure to process the water and sewage for so many apartments? The city is not doing their job

frankd4
frankd4 topcommenter

@Lilly2 @frankd4  


of course the perfect storm is created not only by real estate developers selling to drug king pins no questions asked - the local corrupt politicians AND the corruptible police department and judges and juries = the perfect environment for drug industry money to feel comfortable by the cover provided by the sleezy MIAMI life-style which is why that dirty money pours in constantly

frankd4
frankd4 topcommenter

@Lilly2 @frankd4  


no real legitimate cash money would EVER be put at risk to such an extent


rich people have advisers who would NEVER allow a legitimate credit-worthy buyer to put money into a non-refundable unsecured position on a yet-to-be-built real estate project


at some point in years past it was considered worth risking a pre-construction price because the security deposit was FULLY refundable AND the introductory prices were typically ten or twenty percent lower than the price upon completion - BUT today the developer OVER-prices the unit AND takes the 100% pre-construction deposit as NON-refundable and unsecured - this transaction today is totally unacceptable to any legitimate wealthy person


the loss on equity value by the buyer is the cost of remaining secretive - something only dirty drug money would pay

Lilly2
Lilly2

@frankd4 @Lilly2 I know the reason you sound so cynical and partly you are correct, sad but true this is the sleaze factor, no matter how much designer clothes you dress it in. But, I honestly don't think it's ALL, but there is hope. I hope. sigh ...


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