“Upstairs, the neighbors are crying,” said Karina Sobrino, 45, who owns two units in a condo building about a 20-minute drive north from Champlain Towers South, where a search-and-rescue effort is still underway. “Because a lot of them don’t have families. Don’t have a place to stay.”
She said the 156-unit complex was occupied primarily by Latino residents, some of whom were very elderly. “They’re crying, they’re afraid for their future, afraid about what to do with the furniture,” she said.
“But it’s better to take care of the building,” said Sobrino, who helped her 70-year-old mother evacuate. “Champlain Towers — it woke everyone up.”
Local authorities have scrambled to confirm the safety of other buildings after the sudden Surfside collapse, which left at least 22 dead and 126 missing. Officials said Crestview Towers, home to middle and low-income residents, was closed out of “an abundance of caution” while a full assessment is conducted. Officials found that Crestview Towers had failed to get both its 40-year and 50-year recertification, the city manager said, and authorities only received a concerning January report on Friday afternoon.
“A lot of residents are upset. But everyone does understand why we have to do this,” City Manager Arthur H. Sorey III said in an interview, noting that Hurricane Elsa is headed for Florida even as its path remains uncertain. The city is working with Red Cross and a local homelessness organization to house those unable to find other shelter.
“At least we know people are going to be safe,” he said.
Mariel Tollinchi, an attorney representing the condo association, said the group is not convinced that the report deeming the building unsafe is accurate and has requested a second review.
The board, made up a group of residents, thought the January report was submitted to the city by the engineer who wrote it and didn’t find out the building was not in compliance with the recertification process until the audit following the Surfside condo collapse, Tollinchi said.
She said they have been making repairs for the past two years, and the recommended fixes would cost about $10 million, which they view as unreasonably high.
“There’s just no way a homeowner is going to cough up $100,000 to make repairs to their home while they’re not even living in their home and having to incur the expenses of living outside,” Tollinchi said.
Roberto Barreiro, who wrote the report the city released Friday, declined to comment to The Post.
The city of North Miami Beach started an audit of all buildings on June 29, Sorey told The Washington Post, and soon requested that the condo association at Crestview submit a safety report within 30 days.
“STRUCTURAL REPAIRS WILL BE REQUIRED,” said a report on the 10-story condo built in 1972. It described “spalled concrete,” in which the material’s surface chips away, and corrosion in reinforcing bar or “rebar.” Beams, columns, sills, lintels, walls, balcony slabs and more were listed as showing “distress.”
At 2 p.m., Sorey said, the city received the engineer’s report, which indicated the building was not safe to be occupied. By 5 p.m., he added, police officers were on-site, knocking on doors. Nobody will be allowed to reside in the building until it is deemed safe, he said.
Sorey told reporters he is not yet sure how many live in the condo, located at 2025 NE 164th St. Authorities were hoping to get people out in a couple of hours, he said, but would be there all night. He added that he is not sure when repairs might start and said the condo association is responsible for bringing the building up to code.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said Friday that the city of North Miami Beach has “taken the steps that we recommended to review to make sure that the recertification process was being done on a timely basis.”
At 8 p.m., Crestview residents were still milling on their balconies. Local officials said police had cleared two floors of residents; the rest would have to leave later Friday night.
“We’ve deemed the building unsafe. By law, they cannot stay,” said Michael Joseph, a North Miami Beach city commissioner.
Denasha and Kesha Alceus, 15 and 21, leaned over the back of their car, talking to friends over the phone. Denasha said she had just woken up from a nap and was on her way to work when a man in a suit came knocking on their apartment on the fourth floor.
“They said we weren’t safe,” she said. “Nobody knew about this. Nobody even knew it was going on.”