Letters from the Issue of October 7-13, 2004

Green space versus museum space, and one very pissed-off waitress

People Belong in Bicentennial Park

Only the unenlightened would pave over the last waterfront green space: The county wants us to vote yes on bond issue #8 and spend $275 million on two massive museums in Bicentennial Park, hijacking the last green space on the water in the heart of our city. This is the exact opposite of what other, more enlightened, cities are doing by enhancing waterfronts and parks, not paving them over.

The proposed fraction of the park that would remain green will be no more inviting than an empty soccer field. This park, referred to by some as Miami's Central Park, should be made hospitable and useful.

Why will it not be like Central Park? Because that great park covers 600 acres and features places for all kinds of people to stroll, have picnics and birthday parties, attend concerts and plays, rollerblade and jog, play ball, loll on benches and grass, and walk dogs and babies. It has fountains, a band shell, a carousel, lakes and bridges, restaurants, a zoo, and carriage drives and horse trails.

Bicentennial Park is just 29 acres. But at least it could have trees and foliage to shade people in this semi-tropical city where shade is essential. Miami's citizens do not need a place to stagger around in the hot sun with a view of two huge museum buildings, the ugly and intrusive American Airlines Arena, and an overbuilt Watson Island. Keep Bicentennial Park green and let the museums build elsewhere -- and at their own expense.

Judith Hancock Sandoval

Miami

Museums Belong in Bicentennial Park

Only the clueless think we need more downtown park space: After reading in the "The Bitch" that the Urban Environment League opposes the Miami Art Museum's plans for Bicentennial Park ("Museums to the Max," September 30), and also in response to Steve Hagen's letter (September 9) on the same subject of museums in the park, I just had to respond.

What's so frustrating about this issue is that there are any number of good, civic-minded people who have the best of intentions but nary a clue. Anyone who wants solely parkland in this downtown space completely misunderstands the nature of our city. We don't need park space in this city in the way many other cities do. A beautiful, landscaped "museum park" on Biscayne Bay is a far better use of the space, and passage of bond issue #8 on the November 2 ballot will be an important step in cementing Miami as one of the world's great cities.

Mr. Hagen, among others, gripes that Miami "ranks last among all major U.S. cities in terms of park space per resident." But if you look at Miami-Dade County as a whole, we simply don't need a large green space downtown. When I think of great city parks, Central Park in New York and London's extensive park systems spring to mind. In those two cities the parks are essential. Both are large, dense urban centers whose residents have no other reasonably accessible outdoor recreational areas. In neither city are yards or beaches readily available.

Here we have one of the world's great beaches in Miami Beach, and abundant family beach and recreational areas on Key Biscayne and at Haulover Park, to name just two. Most people in Miami also live in residences that have yards or in condos that have pools. In other words, once I turn off my TV and walk outside, I have dozens of options, from a barbecue in my backyard to watching the models on South Beach to sunning myself on Key Biscayne to playing sports in any of the numerous ball fields sprinkled all over the county. If I'm going to get my lazy ass in a car and drive to a recreation spot, why in the world would I want to drive downtown and sit in a park overlooking Biscayne Bay when I can go to the beach and actually go in the water?

Lucky for us, our civic leaders seem to have their priorities in order on this. Rather than build a park no one will use (for legitimate purposes anyway), we have a plan to build a "museum park" with an improved Museum of Science and Miami Art Museum (MAM) in that public space. I'm not a parent or a science wonk, so I'll leave arguments for the science museum to them, but let's look at the need to improve MAM.

Considering the size of our metropolitan area, our phenomenal location as the hub of the Americas, the solid local art scene, a great arts school (New World School of the Arts), and plenty of rich folks with money to burn on art, it is absurd that we don't have a world-class art museum. The current MAM has a major problem: its facility. It's not that there isn't a decent staff or a start on a good collection, but as it stands, the museum is far, far too small and its location is awful.

A larger facility will immediately improve the museum. Not only will it be able to show a larger part of its collection, but it would provide space to establish permanent exhibitions. For example, there is simply no reason why we shouldn't have a great, permanent overview of Latin American art. Additionally the establishment and display of a larger permanent collection is incentive for local rich folks to donate or loan their private collections to the museum. If I were a rich collector, I wouldn't want to donate an expensive piece of art just to have it sit in a basement. And not inconsequentially, a striking new building right on the bay will be a great tourist draw. Don't think art puts fannies in the seats? Just look at the success of Art Basel Miami Beach.

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