Letters from the Issue of February 10-16, 2005

The Homestead Marlins, the Lincoln Road chaos, the Pitbull hype

You may be laughing now, but... Regarding Forrest Norman's story about the Homestead Sports Complex ("Strike Three, You're Out," February 3), I have an idea: Why don't the Marlins take over the virtually abandoned ballpark? The 6500-seat stadium may be too small for a major-league team, but the Marlins could buy the 138-acre parcel and then build the stadium they want for less money than building it downtown.

The county could then extend Metrorail farther south, all the way to Homestead. This will give tourists a chance to see more of the area, and it'll get rid of the $18 million albatross that hangs around the necks of Homestead taxpayers. Then tax money could be used to pay for really important things -- better education, better pay for teachers and police, and improvements around the county.

Ralph Garcia

Miami

Lincoln Road: Great Gawking

My dog and I love the crowds: I am writing in response to Lee Klein's misleading and horribly one-sided article "Sidewalk Scofflaws" (January 27). Klein paints a lopsided portrait of a Lincoln Road where "strolling" is as "appealing as squeezing through a shopping mall the day before Christmas." The very fact that Lincoln Road is busy with tourists and locals alike illustrates that Klein is alone in his (mis)judgment.

As a local I enjoy taking my dog to the wonderful Lincoln Road cafés to gaze, stare, and openly gawk at precisely the crowds Klein abhors. There is no better people-watching spot in the city!

Klein also whines about the umbrellas, chairs, heaters, and other accouterments of the restaurant business. It makes me wonder what he really wants for Lincoln Road. Would he prefer abandoned buildings and urban blight to the current situation, in which the public seems eager to patronize these businesses?

These businesses about which Klein kvetches generate prosperity not only for their owners; they also provide good jobs for local employees. And let's not forget the resort-tax money generated by these restaurants, which benefits all residents in the city.

It seems a little odd to me that a reporter with such a respected newspaper would include not even one comment from anyone at any of the businesses singled out for criticism -- but then again, that would require Klein to stop bitching for a minute or two.

James Cohen

Miami Beach

Lincoln Road: Marvelous Multitudes

Throngs of people = tons of money: I was appalled to read Lee Klein's mean-spirited attack on Lincoln Road. Miami Beach has always been a party town, and part of its allure is that people want to be where the action is. The city began as a tourist destination, fell on hard times, and was reborn as a world-class city. What Klein calls "chaos" is what those who flock to Lincoln Road call "excitement." People love to be part of a crowd and will always choose a full restaurant over an empty one.

Was Klein sympathetic when landlords were losing money owing to high vacancy rates? Or after 9/11, when our hotels and restaurants were losing so much money they were forced to close or lay off workers? Why is it easier to place blame on landlords instead of condemning high taxes, license and permit fees, insurance premiums, and bank interest rates?

I urge our politicians not to cave in to the type of narrow thinking voiced by Mr. Klein, who in his zeal to use his journalistic talents to spew negativity ignores the fact that the "throngs of people" were having fun and spending money. If his reporting were fair and balanced, he would have interviewed those in the throng. Not only don't they mind the crowds, those very crowds are one of the reasons they come to Lincoln Road.

The boutiques permit dining tables in front of their stores because they realize the restaurants attract customers who (heaven forbid!) spend money in their shops. Wake up, Mr. Klein. A major reason for the success of Lincoln Road is the crowded sidewalk cafés.

This antibusiness attitude (which always seems to include a swipe at the landlords), coupled with the ill-conceived, burdensome new master parking meters, is exactly what will kill the goose that laid the golden egg. Then there will be no crowds on Lincoln Road to annoy Mr. Klein. Maybe he would prefer the squalor of the Seventies, when vagrants and drug addicts were in the majority, instead of visitors from all over the world.

Judith Berson-Levinson

Miami Beach

Lincoln Road: Dine or Die

Go ahead, kill the cafés and just see what happens: Having viewed New Times as somewhat of a counterculture newspaper, and therefore expecting you to be supporting the little guy (in this case the small-businessperson), I was quite surprised by the one-sided reporting in Lee Klein's "Sidewalk Scofflaws." Is Mr. Klein new to Miami Beach? Maybe he doesn't know that Lincoln Road was dead for decades, and that it did not come alive until restaurants began to open there in the early Nineties, and that it is only because of the popularity of these restaurants that retail stores have followed.

It is absurd to call these restaurants "sidewalk scofflaws" and claim they make it unpleasant to be on Lincoln Road because they create chaos with "a sprawl of tables, chairs, umbrellas, heat lamps, busing stations, and throngs of people." These restaurants, and the customers they bring to Lincoln Road, are not creating chaos; they are creating business and prosperity for Lincoln Road and for South Beach. And there can be no doubt that without these restaurants and their customers there would be little or no retail shopping on Lincoln Road. It would quickly return to the dead days of the Seventies and Eighties.

People love the outdoor dining on Lincoln Road and Ocean Drive as well. The popularity of these streets is obvious to all, and should be to Mr. Klein. As for the tables and chairs, does Mr. Klein really think the patrons of these restaurants would rather sit directly on the sidewalk? Or not be shaded by an umbrella from the bright sun or even light rain? Or not be warmed by heat lamps when it's cold? Get a grip! These restaurants are only doing what they need to do to serve their customers, and they are doing it well.

As to the city's sidewalk-café ordinance, yes it does need some revision, but mainly to make it conform to the realities of doing business on Lincoln Road, not to reduce or eliminate the Road's source of popularity: its restaurants.

David Kelsey, president

South Beach Hotel and Restaurant Association

Miami Beach

Lincoln Road: Catalan Connections

From Carlos Betancourt to Carlos Alves to Antoni Gaudí to Morris Lapidus: Lee Klein's excellent "Sidewalk Scofflaws" is dynamite on the actual physical aspects of Lincoln Road. He errs, however, in his attribution of the mosaic fountain to Carlos Betancourt. While Carlos Betancourt is an outstanding artist, his medium is photography and grand installations like the one he did on South Beach in March 2000. It is Carlos Alves who works in glass and tile and whose work is reminiscent of Catalan artist Antoni Gaudí.

I would be remiss if I failed to point out the Barcelona connection here (life is all about connections). Barcelona is the city of Gaudí, whose spires of La Sagrada Familia (the Church of the Sacred Family) formed the centerpiece for most of the postcards commemorating the Olympic Games from that great city. Morris Lapidus designed Lincoln Road after traveling to Barcelona, modeling the Road after Las Ramblas, the famed pedestrian walkway of Barcelona. Carlos Betancourt traveled to Barcelona last year.

Last but not least, the closing film of this year's Miami International Film Festival is Unconscious (Inconscientes), which takes place in 1913 Barcelona.

Jonathan Rose, cultural correspondent

Cultural Bulletin

Miami

Lincoln Road: Misplaced Blame

Yes, it's a mess, but it's not our mess: It takes just one look at Sushisamba Dromo's interior design to realize it is highly influenced by the architecture of the Modernist period, particularly Oscar Niemeyer, an architect who considered Morris Lapidus his voice in the United States.

In "Sidewalk Scofflaws," Lee Klein wrote: "Nobody beats Sushisamba Dromo for turning a Lapidus artwork into what looks like a set from Sanford and Son." All that garbage being stored against the Lapidus structure on the Sony Building side of the 600 block of Lincoln Road belongs to Carnevale restaurant, which has the rights from the Sony Building to use the space in front of it. They actually cover it all up with a generic blue tarp at the end of the night and use it as their own storage space.

In fact holes have been drilled into the Lapidus structure and hook fasteners installed. When it rains, Carnevale uses the hooks to hang a transparent plastic curtain. Sushisamba has tried for three years to get rid of this eyesore, but to no avail.

Our busing station consists of a custom-built, stainless-steel hutch and an insulated ice well. I find it very irresponsible for Mr. Klein to assume and print so boldly that all of Carnevale's garbage belongs to Sushisamba.

James Recio, general manager

Sushisamba Dromo

Miami Beach

The Pitbull Syndrome

He may be all hype, but at least he'sourhype:I was in Miami a few weeks back and read Mosi Reeves's "Basshead" column "Whose Culture?" (January 13), a response to Brett Sokol's "Kulchur" column of January 6 ("Miami's Most Incredible, Fantastic, Amazing Year in Music!"). The subject: Miami's overhyped music scene. I have to say that Basshead's rebuttal was a sorry excuse for writing -- full of contradictions, a waste of paper.

How about not letting him work out in print his issues with justifying his choice of music? It was sad reading, as he only confirmed in his own language what Kulchur had written in his piece. Basshead's line about not being a fan of Pitbull's music summed it up: If you aren't a fan of it as a writer, what more is there to say?

It was poor writing, and the 50 people living in South Florida Basshead tries to appeal to while writing about "underground rap" and "IDM" (whatever that bad music is called) probably didn't read the column anyway.

Those of us outside of the 50 kids with backpacks who read it thought it would have served Basshead's purpose better had he written the piece, got up the next day, rewritten it, and then just e-mailed it directlyto Kulchur rather than subject readers to such rubbish.

Raise the bar, Mr. Music Editor, and stop making excuses for bad music. There may not be much going on down there in that wasteland regarding music, but you can't invent it just because you dedicate a column to carrying on about it.

Kulchur's piece was on point. Basshead's thing was just a juvenile rant -- at best. It's Basshead's agenda that gets old.

It's also worth pointing out that the columns Basshead liked in the now-defunct Street were similar to his own in that they pushed their own agendas rather than cover the entire music scene in South Florida. I guess it's the bad celebrating the worse in some kind of circle jerk. Maybe it is Basshead who should get out more and see what is going on in South Florida. Popping into I/O and a Fatlip or Del show here and there isn't being a music editor. Harry Allen he is not.

Lee Williams

Brooklyn, New York

Pitbull -- Miami's Shining Light

You guys are a total disgrace: That article Brett Sokol put out on Pitbull, about how Miami needs to turn off the hype? Just to let you guys know, you got it all wrong. I really don't believe how you people, being from Miami, could crack on it so much.

Good luck finding support from the citizens of Miami, especially young people. Total disgrace. Thank you for dissing on the one thing Miami has to shine off.

Roberto Fuentes

Hialeah

A Thousand Words

Imagine more images: The January 13 issue of New Times reminded me of one of the main reasons I read your weekly: beautiful photography of people.

Jonathan Postal should be commended for his fine work in "The Rapture." Please give him even more room for photo essays à la the old Life and Look magazines.

Dan O'Donnell

Hialeah

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