Article Courtesy of The Miami Herald
By CASEY WOODS
Posted October16, 2005
owners in the troubled Castle Beach condominium, which was evacuated
months ago because of code violations, could regain control of their
building after a judge ordered accelerated elections.
A judge's ruling has paved the way for accelerated
condominium board elections at the troubled Castle Beach condominium,
which was evacuated in April for life-safety code violations.
A court-appointed receiver has controlled the
building, located at 5445 Collins Ave., since it was shut down. Many
unit owners are unhappy with the receiver's management and asked
Miami-Dade County Circuit court Judge Marc Schumacher to remove him
immediately and replace him with a five-member board chosen by the
Instead, on Oct. 6, Schumacher opted to schedule
elections within 30 days to elect a new board.
''I'm pleased the judge is finally listening to
unit owners, though I'm disappointed in the delay of 30 days for
elections,'' said attorney Joseph Ganguzza, who said he is representing
more than 200 of the unit owners. "We have individuals who are
interested, committed and qualified to serve on the board of directors
who have a greater stake in turning this around than the receiver
The problems at the 573-unit condominium building,
located at 5445 Collins Ave., began in 2003, when one of the owners of
the ground-floor theater sued the condominium board, accusing the
members of not properly maintaining the theater's roof. A judge in the
case appointed the receiver, Robert Stone, initially giving him power
only over the building's finances.
When the building was evacuated after the city
gave repeated notice of code violations that were not fixed, the judge
took power away from the board and gave complete control of the building
to Stone, an accountant.
Three of the five members of the board of
directors collectively own 125 of the units.
One of the two engineers hired by Stone, John
Pistorino, estimated that it would take $25 million to bring the
building up to code because of the long list of violations, both
life-safety and otherwise. In discussions with the city, a second
engineer working for Stone, Reymundo Miranda, has worked out a plan to
do the minimum amount of repairs necessary to get residents back into
the building. His estimate for that first repair phase: four weeks and
But because of the building's financial straits
and the fact that it has been declared unsafe by the city, it has been
impossible to get loans to finance the repairs.
Stone did not return calls seeking comment.
Since the evacuation, hundreds of unit owners at
the building have struggled to keep up with maintenance fees, mortgage
payments, and special building assessments in addition to rent payments
on an alternate place to live. Many are at risk of losing their homes to
''I've worked all my life to have an apartment on
the beach, and now I face losing it,'' said Frank Loureda, a unit owner.
"It's not believable that this would happen, not in the United
Ganguzza said his clients were pursuing different
avenues to regain control of the building. ''We are proceeding on a
couple of different fronts to make sure, that one way or the other we
have unit owners running the show at Castle Beach Club,'' he said.
Ganguzza's clients are also working on a recall
election that would remove the old board and replace them with the five
candidates they presented to Schumacher. So far, they have 359 recall
votes, including the 125 from the suspended board members.
''If we get a good board through the election, we
will withdraw the recall,'' Ganguzza said.
Not all of the unit owners believe a new board,
either through recall or election, will help the building's problems.
don't think that having a new board will change circumstances to open
the building any quicker,'' said Elizabeth Martialay, a unit owner and
lawyer at a law firm that represents several unit owners. "Nobody
has answered how it's going to help.''