Miami auditors: Jungle Island falls short on job creation pledges
A stinging draft audit report from the city of Miami is the latest black eye for Jungle Island.
The iconic Jungle Island sign sits in front of the attraction on Watson Island. C.W. GRIFFIN / MIAMI HERALD STAFF
BY KATHLEEN MCGRORY
KMCGRORY@MIAMIHERALD.COM Jungle Island employs hundreds fewer workers than required under the terms of a $25 million federal loan, and only a fraction of them are low- and middle-income employees despite a separate loan pledge made by the aviary attraction.
The findings, part of a stinging draft audit by the park’s landlord, the city of Miami, are another black eye for Jungle Island, which made headlines last summer when its owners said they could not afford a $2 million payment due on the federal loan.
Miami auditors found that Jungle Island has only 426 full-time employees — a far cry from the 714 required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Federal standards require that loan recipients create at least one full-time post for every $35,000 they receive, in a bid to spur urban development.
The aviary park also fell short on a promise to award more than half of all jobs to low- and middle-income workers, according to the audit. Jungle Island officials told Miami that 38 percent of park positions were held by workers who live in low- and middle-class neighborhoods. Auditors found the figure to be closer to 4 percent.
Park owner Bern Levine said he had not yet seen the city audit, but contested its findings.
“We have met and exceeded [the requirements],” Levines