Survivors of a 12-story oceanfront condominium that collapsed in Surfside, Fla., appeared in court for the first time Wednesday, offering opposing views on how or whether to rebuild on the site.
No consensus on how to proceed was apparent as condo owners and family members who survived the June 24 partial collapse of Champlain Towers South testified during a civil court hearing before Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Michael Hanzman.
Some condo owners want to work with a developer to rebuild the tower on the same site, but others told the court they couldn’t bear living on the site of the disaster, where 97 bodies were recovered, all but two of which have been identified.
Those in favor of redeveloping the site sought to convince Hanzman to let work proceed, WPLG-TV reported.
“It’s an opportunity to live in an area like that that doesn’t come around very often and to replace it now for a lot of these owners will be almost mission impossible, considering where home prices are, especially beachfront property,” condo owner Oren Cytrynbaum said.
Others, however, said the property held too many disturbing memories.
“I personally could never live in a building [there] — that is a gravesite,” former resident Raysa Rodriguez testified, according to the Miami Herald.
Despite the lack of consensus, Hanzman ruled out suggestions the survivors could be asked to donate the site for use as a memorial or a park, CNN reported.
Regardless of “the views of some people who are not victims, this court’s task and your task is to compensate the victims of this tragedy, period,” Hanzman said.
The hearing took place as new images revealed that nearly all of the more than 22 million pounds of debris had been removed, leaving a yawning, empty space.
Florida State Senator Jason Pizzo shared photos on Twitter of the progress being made in clearing the rubble.
Only a few concrete blocks remained on the collapse site, which was only 4 weeks ago buried under mountains of rubble.