By Deborah Souverain

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A building deemed unsafe in Little Havana was torn down Monday.

Moments before the demolition of the apartment building, at 120 NW 7th Avenue, Miami officials spoke about the building had become a hub for criminals and squatters for nearly two years after it was taken over by new owners.

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Commissioner Joe Carollo, whose district includes Little Havana, was present for the demolition.

“Our first responsibility is to protect and ensure the well-being of our residents,” said Carollo in a statement. “As a city, we must take a tougher stance against entities who own land for profit that allow them to dilapidate into conditions that attract criminal elements, lower property values, and put our residents and children at risk.”

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City officials said they are seeing a rise in rundown buildings across the county, and they attribute it to backdoor deals between building owners and some code enforcement officials.

They said for years building owners have been doing arbitrary deals with code enforcement officials allowing them to wipe out hundreds of thousands, if not, millions in fines.

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City commissioners say they are now working on a new ordinance that would require property owners to appeal code or building violations through an advisory board or panel, rather than leaving room for the backdoor deals currently taking place.

Deborah Souverain