Inside the Tumultuous Years Before the Florida Condo Collapse

An independent panel convened by Graciela M. Escalante recommended choosing Mr. Morabito’s firm on Sept. 13, 2019, despite the fact that his proposal was the most expensive and first elicited “sticker shock” from committee members.

A day after the resignations, board president Anette Goldstein and vice president Nancy K. Levin said they were fed up with last-minute stumbling blocks that kept delaying repairs.

Inside the Tumultuous Years Before the Florida Condo Collapse

Ego fights, undercutting fellow board members’ duties, the spread of gossip and falsehoods have been a recurring theme, Ms. Goldstein said in her letter to the board. “I am not painting a nice picture of how our board functions, but it describes a board that works very hard but cannot achieve the goals we intended to achieve for the reasons above.”

It had gone from being the “jewel” of Surfside to being overrun by a “political war of egos and power,” said Ms. Levin, who had lived in the building since it opened.

Because she disagreed with the other board members who wished to accept $400,000 from the developers of Eighty Seven Park to settle their complaints, Maggie A. Manrara, the treasurer, resigned six days later. It was rejected by the board of directors.

On Oct. 3, 2019, six of the seven board members resigned. Five did so in the two weeks before that date. Ms. Escalante and others voiced their concerns at a board meeting that day. New president: Bal Harbour’s building official was elected, and she had a lot to offer in that regard.

Condominium association board members and homeowners at Surfside, Florida’s Champlain Towers South were still at odds seven months before the building’s demise due to structural damage caused by neglect.

In 2018, engineers issued a study citing “severe structural deterioration” and an error in the building’s design. The structural slab had become level and slopeless, an indication of its deterioration. Because of the obstruction, water accumulated on the ground. Both the concrete and the columns supporting it started to crack and rust.

A month after the October 2018 assessment, a Surfside town official reportedly assured homeowners that their building was “in good shape.” This was first reported by NPR.

However, the structure of the building deteriorated over the subsequent two years. Engineer checks repeated over time revealed worsening conditions. Safety recertification is needed every 40 years for older, multi-story buildings in Miami-Dade County.

According to newly obtained papers by NPR, on November 10-11, 2020, the board and residents were delivered an emergency PowerPoint presentation by the property manager. The tone of the writing was harsh. Why we need to do all this right now was spelled out in all capital letters on a single slide.

In addition, another voiced a warning, “Whatever we decide, the cost will be high. The majority of the budget went toward necessities (concrete, roof, generator room, fire wall) rather than frills.”

Vice President Biden Visits with Condo Victims and their Families for Hours, Promising More Aid in the Future.

In 2018, it was projected that $9 million would be needed to address the building’s issues. These numbers, however, grew to over $12 million by the year 2020. The board considered borrowing $15,000,000 to fund the renovations. Condominium owners would need to fork over almost $100,000 each.

The presentation gave people a rundown of their choices, including a vote on whether or not to stockpile more cash. On a subsequent presentation slide, it was stated, “Here at our building, a major change is imminent.

As a family, we need to make some important choices about the future.” The locals were at their wits’ end. As another slide cautioned: “Arguments that consist of people complaining and yelling at each other are useless. The wishes of the majority can be ascertained by voting.”


Condominium board president Jean Wodnicki sent a letter to tenants in April 2021, pointing out that talk of repairs had been going on for years and that the concrete was deteriorating rapidly. Spalling (cracking) concrete is an outward sign of rebar rusting and decaying beneath the surface, as noted by Wodnicki.

The board approved applying for a $15 million line of credit on April 13, 2021, according to documents supplied to NPR. Two months later, when the condo building collapsed, the structural repairs had not even begun.