Letters to the Editor

From the issue of July 26, 2001

This rudeness got to a point where it felt like we weren't welcome. During this visit there were many times I would say hello and would get only a bad attitude in return. Now, I don't profess to be fluent in Spanish, but a smile and a hello is universal. I have read in local Miami newspapers of some of the problems between black and Cuban residents in the past, and of some problems with the primarily young black contingent that arrived during Memorial Day weekend. But that's no excuse. Rudeness is rudeness.

Keep in mind that South Beach is no longer a getaway solely for the in-crowd. Now it's a destination for Joe Everyman. There are beaches and designer stores in other cities. The main thing that kept me coming back to Miami was the people. Considering that tourism is Miami's biggest industry, it isn't wise to drive people away. I will not spend my money where I am not wanted.

I still like Miami, but I will think long and hard before returning again.

Stanley Golden
Simpsonville, South Carolina

South Beach Manifesto: Start Planning and Stop the Decline
Otherwise you'll become just another Buckhead: As a resident of Miami Beach, over the last couple of years I've noticed a pattern that develops around certain events taking place on the Beach. It glaringly came to my attention during the Super Bowl weekend of January 2000. All of a sudden there was widespread violence at the top of the headlines -- assaults, stabbings, and fights. I witnessed a lot of this firsthand, having attended a concert featuring the hip-hop team of Puff Daddy and Mase at the nightclub then called Amnesia. That event turned into a mob scene involving at least one stabbing and several additional assaults. The concert was ultimately canceled, though the police came only after the violence had already occurred.

Only two club-employed bouncers were present at this event, even though more than 300 or 400 people were trying to get in via a very disorganized queue. Of course this degraded into a melee. Is that any way to manage an event in our community? I understood that the promoters of the event were not locals.

Once the police arrived and the crowd was dispersed, I took my guests to the News Café. Even this nonclub, largely tourist-oriented restaurant had an off-duty police officer managing the ten or fifteen people on queue for a table. Does this mean that events promoters from out of town have no clue that such security should be anticipated? If so, maybe we should make security a requirement prior to sanctioning such events. The fact that even the News Café anticipated the crowds shows that when prior notice is given, local community venues take proper precautionary action.

At the time I thought the Amnesia scene was a fluke incident, given the extraordinary influx of tourists that Super Bowl weekend. In the past year, however, several other hip-hop-themed concerts have been held, and while not necessarily on the scale of a major event, these concerts are often larger than the capacity of the nightclub promoting them. This results in huge crowds snaking around the block and spilling into the streets. Those who cannot gain entry often become rambunctious, verbally assaulting passersby -- tourists, residents, women, homosexuals, or whomever. If ultimately denied entry, a certain undesirable minority of these partygoers routinely vent their frustration by damaging property, whether it be a bar adjacent to the event, their hotel room, or a restaurant. I have seen this trend develop consistently over the past two years. Is this the level of sophistication we want associated with our city?

As we all became painfully aware on Memorial Day weekend, the Beach was not prepared for the events that transpired. I spend a lot of time in the bar and restaurant establishments around town, and the comments of friends working in these places truly shocked me: a vandalized dining room at the Hotel Astor, a wedding disrupted by an unruly mob at the Loews Hotel, destroyed rooms at the Delano. And there were multiple assaults.

The infrastructure was taxed as well. I was unable to use a cell phone the entire weekend because the networks were busy owing to all the traffic. Luckily I didn't have a road accident anywhere near the Beach. In fact the Beach was shut down -- Ocean Drive, Collins and Washington avenues, even the MacArthur Causeway. How is it that no one knew to prepare for this? I live on Collins and Eighth, and I could barely reach my apartment beginning Friday of that weekend. What if I had been moving in that weekend? I had no warning.

I saw a Japanese couple on the steps of the Tides Hotel, obviously on their honeymoon while simultaneously fearing for their safety in the mob scene that was Ocean Drive the entire weekend. What is the likelihood these tourists will ever return, much less utter a positive word about our community to others? What are we doing wrong? Why are we allowing this to happen? We must have prior notice of these events.

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