Midtown Miami Owners Revolt Against Condo President Over $2.4 Million Lobby Renovation
"People should either be caressed or crushed," Niccolò Machiavelli once wrote. "If you do them minor damage they will get their revenge; but if you cripple them there is nothing they can do."
Seth Cohen clearly did not get the civics lesson. In summer 2012, the then 43-year-old New Yorker went South Florida apartment shopping. After much deliberation, he dropped $1.5 million on a 4,000-square-foot penthouse in the hottest spot in town: Two Midtown Miami. Then he put his name on the ballot for condo association president and won. Cohen had instantly become prince of the 5-year-old tower, with its white walls, turquoise pool, and trendy restaurants. Machiavelli would have approved.
But Cohen was neither loved nor feared by his fellow condo owners. And in April of this year, his crown slipped. After completing an expensive upgrade of the elevators and pool furniture, he proposed a $2.4 million renovation of Two Midtown's lobby. Roughly 120 condo owners received notice in the mail, along with a $6,844.27 bill.
That's when the insurrection began.
"I rubbed my eyes to see if I was seeing correctly," says condo owner Iliat Llamozas. "I looked at the rendering of the lobby and couldn't figure out how the association was going to be able to spend that much money on the renovation.
"The design was horrible," she says. "It had chairs that looked like chairs from The Munsters and bookshelves and two fireplaces. Bookshelves! I mean, nobody reads books anymore."
Llamozas called her brother, Rafael Borges, who was one of the first people to buy a place at Two Midtown. Borges had initially told his sister to vote for Cohen. Now he felt betrayed.
"We never had any problems with anyone ever until this board member joined," Borges says. "But these renovations are absurd. This guy is a bully."
Borges had a huge banner printed with the words: "Shame on you, Seth Cohen." On April 29, he and several other condo owners stood on the curb in front of Two Midtown to protest the special assessment.