Head Case

No buts about it

As rip currents swept unsuspecting swimmers out to sea along the Miami Beach coast two weeks ago, a couple of lifeguards went mano a mano during a workout session gone awry.

According to a tale told to the sun-averse Bitch by a retired leathery lifeguard, Vince Andreano, captain of the Miami Beach Fire Department's ocean rescue division, headbutted operations supervisor and fire Lt. Hank Oppenborn. "The Dance of the Lifeguard Noggins" allegedly occurred at the foot of the Eighth Street beach lifeguard station, where Andreano and Oppenborn were engaged in a fitness competition.

Unimpressed by Andreano's subsequent apology, Oppenborn filed a complaint with assistant fire chief Ed del Favero, who is conducting an investigation into the altercation. Oppenborn, Andreano, and del Favero declined comment.

Genetic modifications for lifeguards of the future 
include butt-resistant metal plates; the dinosaur-sized 
brains of the present will be retained in the new design
Photo Illustration By Michael Shavalier
Genetic modifications for lifeguards of the future include butt-resistant metal plates; the dinosaur-sized brains of the present will be retained in the new design

There Goes the Neighborhood
Call it the opposite of white flight. As Miami's core neighborhoods explode with construction and gentrification, the city's historic black communities are being eviscerated by a ghetto gold rush, falling prey to urban renewal of the financially fittest. For years, black Miami's greatest export has been the best and brightest, who leave us for cities with greater opportunity. The African-American heads of some of our major public institutions (Miami International Airport, the Public Health Trust, Miami-Dade County Public Schools) are all from outside the area.

The latest threat to the varied character of Miami is the coming exodus of the working poor, as land values rapidly escalate and city officials offer major incentives to developers willing to build in the inner city. The proposed $150 million Crosswinds project in Overtown would see 1000 new housing "units," and the Midtown Miami project in the Wynwood/Buena Vista area is similarly huge. All this cityscaping is sure to shore up the tax base and bring in affluent new residents with ample discretionary income. However, what is the cost to the greater community if we simply relocate our poorest residents to outlying areas rather than helping them achieve something like middle-class status?

The grassroots in Overtown and Liberty City are stirring around this very question. "In ten years, I have no doubt Overtown and Liberty City will be beautiful," opines activist Max Rameau, of the Miami Workers Center. "The question is, is that redevelopment going to be done to places and things, or for people?"

Crosswinds developers have suggested setting aside 200 "affordable" dwellings, 50 of which would be designated for current Overtown residents. Some are doubtful that any would be able to afford to remain in the neighborhood.

Another issue heating up in Liberty City is a public transit hub proposed to be built by the county on NW 62nd Street and NW 7th Avenue. Residents in the area fear that the hub will bring lots of pollution and traffic. "We do not want to support something that will ultimately be used to move us out," Rameau told a group of homeowners in Model City recently. "We will not support our own suicide."

Nathaniel Wilcox, a leader of PULSE (People United to Lead the Struggle for Equality), claims that a number of black public officials have been supporting the proposed hub on the down low, while telling activists they were against the project. "It's all a hush-hush type of thing," Wilcox asserts. "We got some lyin' black folk who supposed to be representing us and who is going to sell us out to line their own pockets."

Nightclubs in the largely residential neighborhood of South Pointe in Miami Beach are the bête noire for the many residents who want lights out. The residents won't get their wish when it comes to behemoths such as Opium Garden, but for a little restaurant in the shadow of the big joints, the end might be near. Oasis Restaurant and Lounge, a 66-seat Mediterranean bistro, has no hope, absolutely none, of succeeding as a club since the recent passage of a city ordinance prohibiting new nightclubs opening in the area south of Fifth Street. Dance and entertainment licenses were granted to restaurants in the area (Nikki Beach, Pearl, and Opium obtained those D&E licenses under the guise of operating as restaurants). But now that the loophole allowing such foolery is closed, no new clubs really means no new clubs. Forthcoming restaurants may serve delicious cuisine, but under no circumstance can they pump up the volume and morph the dining room into a dance floor. It doesn't matter if the music is tasteful and the patrons are doing the waltz, the hustle, or even the safety dance.

The owner of Oasis, Toufic Mazzawi, turned in all the required documents a month before the vote on the ordinance that the others used to obtain their coveted pass to party on, and Mazzawi expected to get over. He repeatedly told worried residents that Oasis was not really turning into a club. But community activist Frank Del Vecchio and others proved otherwise. They showed how Oasis in fact purchased a fancy sound system and published flyers announcing parties that last till 4:00 a.m. Oasis has been cited for noise and for having music and dancing without a license. The club was cleared of patrons and closed for the night after its most recent violation. Miami Beach city code compliance officer José Alberto is even entertaining a pending request to shut down the mischievous lounge for good. "All I want is belly dancing. What does anyone have against belly dancing?" Mazzawi asks.

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