There Goes the Neighborhood
Regarding Kirk Semple's article "First the Bumbling, Then the Crumbling" (November 28), I really did move to Miami Beach from New York City in 1989 because I loved the Art Deco buildings. On a beautiful, crisp, sunny, dragon-clouds-racing-by day, I was sitting having a colada with a friend of mine from San Francisco. We were swapping neighborhood-preservation stories. He won. They had saved not only a historic building but a business and a home, and in turn, a national treasure of a person. He was telling me about how they kept McDonald's and other chain stores out of their back yard and were keeping a real neighborhood. Chain stores choke a neighborhood; they don't play in the parks, in the restaurants, or shop in the stores.

It was then that I realized exactly how our Art Deco movement had failed. I can remember, with great joy, the approximately three months when I thought almost everyone got it. They understood the charm, the beauty, the humanness of these Art Deco buildings -- how they harmonize together yet are uniquely different and have their own personalities, just like people. What a great place for a people-oriented neighborhood!

But alas, that was a quick honeymoon. When I next looked, they hadn't gotten it. They never got it. They still haven't a clue of what a neighborhood is. They only smell money.

There isn't much neighborhood here, not like my friend's in San Francisco, where your neighbors and environment are both important. When I meet people who have lived only in Miami, I often tell them they ought to visit other parts of the U.S. so they can witness how nice and logical other people are (even New Yorkers).

I suggest that Daniel Abia, [Miami Beach senior engineering inspector], be given another job. Senior inspector and he isn't aware he's in one of the nation's most famous historic districts?

Starr Hagenbring
Miami Beach

Tobee's Choice
Judy Cantor's "An Unorthodox Style" (November 21) was most provocative and enlightening about the diverse group of Jews known as Hasidim. Her critical examination found Hasidics to be wanting in freedom of choice, stifling, and restrictive. But there is a more realistic view to be observed and objectively appraised in our local area.

Venture into the shul in Bal Harbour and speak to the women in attendance (granted they are seated separately and above the male area). You'll be impressed by their positions in our community as practicing attorneys, physicians, entrepreneurs, and teachers. They participate in the secular world and still proudly maintain their strict adherence to their religious choices.

Hopefully, everyone has choices. Although Yehudis Levitin was born into a fundamentalist family environment that can be stifling and consuming in its dictatorial demands, she managed to unshackle herself and select the more comfortable rituals and beautiful spiritual environment found among her contemporaries. She can be creative and enjoy living a full existence, and still be multidimensional as an artist.

Tobee Schneider
Bal Harbour

When Intelligence Is Not Enough
I am reading -- attempting to read -- Michael Sragow's review of The English Patient ("Fools for Love," November 21). I am an intelligent person, but I am struggling to tell if Sragow liked or disliked the movie. "It's a whitewash job done with sperm." What is he trying to say? Too cute by far. And after more than a page of elaborate scene-by-scene descriptions that seem to imply admiration, we learn that the film is "squishy at the core." Does this negate everything that went before?

And where's Todd Anthony? I love his stuff. His reviews are witty and don't read as if they were written with a thesaurus. I don't want to spend an entire lunch break reading a movie review.

Michelle Childs

Make Boat Repairs, Not Movies
The Miami City Commission soon will have an opportunity to determine how the Dinner Key boat yard will be developed, a subject reported by Sean Rowe in the October 17 issue ("Guess Who's Coming To Dinner Key?").

Some time ago a group of concerned citizens met to decide how the public felt about the property. Ninety-eight percent of these people felt that the property should be returned to a full-service boat yard. Some of the dissenters were people with other special interests.

Not long ago the city put out a request for proposals (RFP) for the property. From my perspective, the RFP had several flaws: First, it did not require a place for "do-it-yourselfers" as promised earlier by the commission; second, and more serious, at the eleventh hour one of the commissioners decided that the property should have a minimum rent of $300,000 per year, which removed the possibility of our ever learning what the actual market value of the property was. At the twelfth hour a change was introduced by the staff providing that the major use of the property could be "film-related." I appeared before the commission to request that major be changed to ancillary. The commission agreed.

As a member of the Waterfront Advisory Board, I read all three of the proposals originally submitted, and the latest RFP. I sat through the three proposers' presentations, and the remaining two bidders a second time. After seeing the proposal submitted by Atlantic Clipper, I am amazed that the city's staff found them in compliance. Questions about their financial ability were answered with a very indignant "I don't know."

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