Tempers flared Saturday at a public meeting about the city’s controversial Flagler Shore project, as angry opponents lambasted city officials for closing off two lanes of Flagler Drive since October for pedestrians and bikes.
Most people behaved politely during the two-hour event, which was held on one block of Flagler Shore, at the end of Datura Street, where about 100 residents offered ideas and opinions to city representatives stationed by four tented booths.
Study: Flagler Shore not clogging traffic on downtown waterfront
But some opponents could be heard offering their opinions with raised voices. One man nearly came to blows with the mayor’s husband.
“You’re pointing your finger and I don’t like your attitude,’’ Chuck Muoio said to Denis Coleman after Coleman, a Trump Tower resident, got in the face Mayor Jeri Muoio on the sidewalk about 20 feet away from the tents and out of sight of most people at the event.
“I don’t care what you think,’’ Coleman, a Flagler Shore critic, replied to Chuck Muoio, not realizing he was the mayor’s husband.
Jeri Muoio interrupted Coleman: “Sir, please stop it. There’s no reason for you to be speaking like that.’’
As Chuck Muoio asked Coleman to “just back up, give her some space,’’ Jeri Muoio tried to diffuse the tension by thanking Coleman for coming and walking away. As the mayor’s husband followed, he turned to Coleman and said: “And thank you for being polite.’’
Coleman watched the pair walk away and shouted, “I am! And you’re a chicken!”
Chuck Muoio wheeled around and walked back Coleman. As other people watched, the men stood nearly nose-to-nose for a moment as Coleman said, “You’re a chicken. That’s what you are, and you’re a threatening chicken!”
Chuck Muoio said nothing, shook his head and walked away. Later, he told a reporter that he intervened because he thought Coleman was being rude and threatening to his wife.
Coleman said he didn’t think he was being rude or threatening at all. “I thought I was strong because I have a strong opinion. Then her husband starts trying to intimidate me,’’ he said.
While the confrontation underscored the anger by some Flagler Shore opponents who claim the project was forced on them with little notice, Mayor Muoio said she has received positive feedback since the two lanes were converted for pedestrian use on Oct. 7.
“People are very impassioned about it,’’ Muoio said, “but I have to tell you there are lots of people who love it. So, (opponents) have very loud voices but there are lots of voices that aren’t quite as loud that like it.’’
The first hour of the event was dominated by opponents, many of whom said they lived in downtown condo buildings like The Waterview Towers and Trump Tower and were worried about traffic and safety.
They wrote down their thoughts on colored sticky paper and attached the pieces to a poster board, which one city representative jokingly refered to as ’our ‘hate board.’’’
Among the comments: “Dreadful,’’ “So Tacky” and “Flagler Shore – where driving is a chore!” Before attaching them to the board, many residents took smart-phone pictures of their written comments because they suspected the city would later destroy them without recording them into the record.
But after the organized opponents left, supporters – including visitors who don’t live in the city — added comments to the board, too.
“I’d rather use that space for pedestrians. It’s safer. It’s more fun. It gives you the ability to do more activities,’’ said Steve Conatser.
Others lambasted the city for the lousy look of orange traffic barrels used to demarcate the lane-closing, and for inadequate signage and crosswalk protections.
“Yes, this maybe doesn’t look that visually appealing but I also feel it’s the first step in the right direction,’’ said Steve Graham.
Flagler Shore will end March 1, but there’s a chance it will return again after the boat show and SunFest. City officials said they will study traffic studies and comments from Saturday’s meeting before making a decision.