The Bitch

An ambitious and costly plan to put two museums in Bicentennial Park came under attack this week when the Urban Environment League demanded dramatic changes to the proposal and an influential art collector voiced his complete opposition to the development idea. The Miami Art Museum, the Miami Museum of Science, and the Historical Museum of Southern Florida want to build new homes in the downtown Miami park, but of course don't have enough money. So they're turning to county taxpayers for help -- a lot of help. On November 2, if voters approve bond issue number 8, the museums stand to reap $275 million.

The UEL, which advocates for public parks and smart city planning, objects not to the money but to the amount of land the museums want to grab -- a total of 16 acres from the 29-acre park on Biscayne Bay. UEL president Nancy Liebman says sixteen acres is "totally unacceptable." She and her board of directors believe four acres is more appropriate, and they plan on delivering that message to county manager George Burgess at a meeting this Friday.

The $275 million ($100 million for the art museum, $175 for a combined science and history center) is roughly half the money that would be generated by bond number 8, the remainder to be spread among various other cultural and preservation projects. Bond number 8, in turn, is but a fraction of the "Building Better Communities" $2.9 billion bond program on the November ballot.

Museums are for displaying art, not fashion shows, though this one, starring the creations of Ash Rana,  wasn't half bad
Jonathan Postal
Museums are for displaying art, not fashion shows, though this one, starring the creations of Ash Rana, wasn't half bad

"We support all the bond issues, and we're not opposing museums in Bicentennial Park," Liebman explains, "but we want to make it a better plan." The UEL wants Burgess to persuade the museums and their influential boards of directors to compromise. As Liebman puts it: "To get them in line to understand reality."

Reality would mean much smaller buildings, sculpture and botanical gardens that would be integrated into a redesigned park, and guarantees that any future expansion take place outside park boundaries. And if the museums reject UEL's demands? A harsher reality: Active campaigning to oppose the bond issue, a prospect Liebman finds troubling: "I would be heartbroken to oppose $10 million in preservation projects, some of which are in Miami Beach," where Liebman fought for historic preservation as a city commissioner.

Developer Martin "Marty" Margulies -- whose huge personal collection of valuable objets and canvasses fills a Raiders of the Lost Ark-style warehouse -- wholeheartedly opposes bond number 8 and expects to spend some of his considerable fortune telling the world why. "The language on the ballot is deceptive," he says. "It doesn't mention museums or a park. It's just öcultural facilities' and öHead Start,' and what they'll be giving to Head Start is minuscule compared to the $275 million they're trying to extort from the public." (The precise language: "To construct and improve libraries, cultural facilities, and Head Start learning centers for pre-school children....")

Margulies is particularly annoyed at the thought of the art museum snagging $100 million. "This is a museum with no collection," he fumes, "and they want to build 150,000 square feet? Why? I don't know what they intend to do with all that space, unless they want to have social functions like Parrot Jungle, which is now just a banquet room with parrots. "

As for his own intentions, Margulies reports that his people are developing advertisements he hopes will torpedo number 8. Efforts at compromise, he says, are pointless: "After all this lobbying and public brainwashing, I don't see the museums modifying their stance. Negotiations are not going to be at all productive."


After suffering a Dave Eggers-less September issue, The Bitch ripped the October edition of Spin from the mailbox to be sure her favorite column had been rightfully reinstated. It had, and not only that, the magazine's monthly comic, "Real Life Rock Tales," stars hip-hop hero Lil' Jon and takes a swipe at inexplicably popular Miami Beach "resto-bar" B.E.D.

"Lil' Jon takes revenge on a snooty Miami club," crows the strip, illustrated by Cameron Stewart and reported by Ultragrrrl Sarah Lewitinn. The ever-cheerful LJ, who has a house on the Beach and is in town all the time, apparently had to cool his heels (along with pal Fat Joe) behind the velvet rope while nonentities bum rushed the door. Once inside B.E.D., though, Lil' John housed the mic and demanded tequila shots for everyone -- on the house.

This is B.E.D.'s second smackdown in the national press in the past few weeks. On the opening of the Manhattan B.E.D., the September 13 edition of New York magazine showcased owner Dirk van Stockum stuffily declaring: "This is a fine dining establishment." Meanwhile, restaurateur (Ono in the Hotel Gansevoort) Jeffrey Chodorow spoke sneeringly of South Beach B.E.D.'s less-than-freshly-changed linens. "I don't want to lie down on someone's lamb chop grease," said Chodorow, who left without eating.

Spice Subterfuge

The third annual Miami Spice "restaurant month" (actually August through September), a marketing partnership between the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau and American Express, has proven to be a popular program. And why not? It does, after all, allow diners to enjoy a three-course lunch for $20, or dinner for $30, at restaurants whose prices at other times may be somewhat prohibitive. Those paying attention to the fine print in Miami Spice's promotional ads might note an ambiguous declaration: "Restaurant participation varies." In the case of Azul, in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, this means that the program is enthusiastically promoted, but only for lunch. Acqua, in the Four Seasons, offers the deal for both meal periods, and posts notices informing diners that they are participants, but doesn't hand out the special menu out unless it is requested. Americana, in the Ritz-Carlton South Beach, interprets the term "participation" in particularly loose manner -- no promo is displayed, and servers maintain a strict "don't ask, don't tell" policy. In other words, if you don't know beforehand that Americana is in on Miami Spice, you'll likely never find out. Considering this is the first year participants had to pony up fees to join the Miami Spice program, why wouldn't the Ritz want to let patrons know about it? The Bitch put the question to Courtney Recht, the R-C's assistant manager of public relations, who responded: "Corporate standards don't allow us to put up any promotional material." Recht added that the Americana would "definitely" be Miami Spicing again next year. Well, you didn't ask, but The Bitch tells anyway.

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