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City of Miami police concur with Brian Patel's assessment of the area that stretches roughly between 50th and 79th streets - up to a point. "There's a whole lot of good people in that neighborhood," says Lt. John Brooks of the department's Task Force/Street Narcotics Unit. "One of the things we try to do is to work with legitimate motels, and make sure that we're working with the community to make sure that they stay legal. We try to obtain owner or management compliance."
But prostitution and drugs persist, and the police are aware that some of the neighborhood's problems find their way into motel rooms. Sometimes, says Brooks, the cops will send a prostitute - or an undercover agent posing as a prostitute - to a motel. "We'll have them say certain things, and if the owner knowingly rents them a room," he says, "that's illegal."
Brooks believes that if motel owners actively work to rid their businesses of drugs and prostitution, it can only help them in the long run. "If a management puts out an attitude of not catering to drugs, prostitution, not condoning it, that attitude filters out," he says. "We've seen certain motels that have done real turnarounds."
Financial whiz Andrew Tobias, author of best-selling books including The Only Other Investment Guide You'll Ever Need and a business columnist for Time magazine, lives in the Bayside neighborhood east of Biscayne between 67th and 72nd streets, and owns property on the boulevard. In fact Tobias, his secretary confirms, owns Belle Meade Studios, a fourteen-unit studio apartment building on Biscayne, has invested in a lot of property both east and west of the boulevard, and is extremely hopeful about the future of the area some residents have taken to calling Miami's Upper East Side.
While the city's stretch of the street seems to hold some promise, the destiny of the Miami Moon and other upper-Biscayne motels looks bleak by comparison. This past November, when the Florida Department of Transportation (DOT) announced its $1.1 billion, five-year plan for road improvements in Dade County, the area between 123rd and 163rd streets was slated for a $16.4 million widening project. Every structure on the east side of the boulevard within 30 feet of the current roadway will be demolished. Dade County's Historic Preservation Division, which can protect buildings more than 50 years old, cannot intervene in the DOT's plans to level significant parts of the Florida Villas, Ben's Court, and the Miami Moon. Like its late barfly, Russ (1933-1990), the Frosted Mug, too, which pretty much abuts the street, will be nothing more than a memory.
"They tear down four of the cottages," the Miami Moon's Pete Petkovich lamented, tracing with a sweep of his arm an imaginary 30-foot line that would obliterate, among other things, the motel's office. "And they won't let me improve now. I want to fix up more, put in new asphalt, but they say I can only patch. I have plan for swimming pool in back of office, where it is the perfect size. But they will not permit it.