By David Villano
By Jose D. Duran
By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Luther Campbell
By Frank Owen
By Allie Conti
Souto Steamed Over Suit Support
Filed under: News
In their battle to stop Jorge Perez's luxury condo project on land owned by Mercy Hospital, supporters of Vizcaya have drawn the ire of Miami-Dade County Commissioner Javier Souto. Last week Souto introduced legislation ordering the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens Trust to rescind its support of a lawsuit filed on June 8 against the City of Miami to stop Grove Bay Residences from moving forward.
The county commission is expected to vote on the item at its regular July meeting.
This past April 27, the Miami City Commission voted to rezone the property, which Mercy is selling for $98 million to Perez and his partners, who plan to erect three towers, one possibly as high as 310 feet, near South Bayshore Drive.
Vizcaya backers say Grove Bay will destroy the museum's picturesque views. On May 22, the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens Trust, a county board made up of private individuals and public officials that oversees the historic site, agreed to support the lawsuit filed by the Vizcayans, the museum's private fundraising arm.
Souto could not be reached for comment, but according to a source close to the commissioner, he is upset the trust would give the Vizcayans the green light to bankroll litigation with money that would otherwise be used for maintaining and improving Vizcaya.
In a June 4 memo to the county commission, trust chairman Jeffrey Rynor explained it was in the museum's best interest to allow the Vizcayans to appeal the city's decision.
"Grove Residences is a dangerous threat to the future of Vizcaya," said Vizcayans board member John Hinson. "Money used to reverse the rezoning of that property is money dedicated to the preservation of Vizcaya." -- Francisco Alvarado
Water Tower Further Flounders
Filed under: News
In the heart of Opa-locka, less than a mile from city hall and within a block of an elementary school, a derelict concrete tower juts out like a filthy shiv.
The "water tower," as it's known by residents and overworked cops, has come to be reviled as a haven for crime, drugs, and homelessness. Most residents have gotten so used to hating it they've grown cynical about the notion that it might one day become an asset to their impoverished city.
Since March, Florida International University professor Zhonghong "Walter" Tang has been fighting for the structure's resurrection. According to his findings, the tower could turn out ten million dollars' worth of reclaimed waste water per day -- literally spinning the city's shit into a tidy profit. "It's a real win-win situation," he says with an earnest grin while digging a hand into his long black hair.
In April, at Tang's urging, Opa-locka passed a resolution to look into applying for state-matching funds to rehabilitate the tower. But the June 1 deadline for Miami-Dade County to allocate 40 percent of the cost passed almost without notice.
Tang's voice rises to a pained pitch when he discusses the bundle the county makes (approximately three million dollars annually, he estimates, since 1982) selling water to the poor municipality while withholding funds that might make the town self-sufficient.
On June 6 the Water and Sewer Department finally sat down with Opa-locka commissioners to discuss Tang's findings. Department officials pointed out that the details were vague: The city couldn't provide exact numbers for how many customers it might have, or whether the facility could be expected to turn a profit.
Tang remained vehement, suggesting that continued neglect could leave the county liable owing to crime and a high risk of illegal dumpers contaminating the unplugged wells.
However, the meeting ended on an optimistic note -- sort of.
Opa-locka City Manager Janie Beverly asked how long it would take the county to decide whether to invest in the facility or leave it to the town to destroy. The answer: a year. If WASD chooses to fund the project, it would be two years before construction even began.
WASD and Opa-locka will meet again at the end of July to discuss precise numbers. -- Calvin Godfrey
Have a Whopper, Hold the Ammo
Filed under: Flotsam
Miami-based Burger King announced this month its entry into the fast-paced, cutting-edge arena of late-night fast food. By staying open past midnight, execs shrewdly reason, BK can better compete with franchises that already keep late hours -- Wendy's, McDonald's, Taco Bell, and Pollo Tropical. To inaugurate the good times, the megafranchise called upon its new best friend and marketing tool, Sean "Diddy" Combs, to do an online spot. "You know, when two kings get together, you know they got to do it in a special way," Combs says in the ad, in which he is seen entering a BK and ordering a Whopper (with everything). He then reprimands his server: "You getting my Whopper? Cuz you sho' ain't moving."
Burger King's new hours might seem like a cause for celebration all around -- the Herald even quotes a business analyst saying the company can hope to increase its profits by up to a whopping one percent! Diddy wins, Burger King wins, and late-night fast-food gluttons win. Everybody wins -- except maybe the employees who get stuck on the graveyard shift. A brief glance into recent fast-food history suggests that an impatient Diddy is the last thing South Florida's BK workers should worry about.
Around 4:00 a.m. on April 21, armed thieves entered a 24-hour McDonald's in Pembroke Pines, locked the employees inside a freezer, and looted the place.
Less than a week later, three robbers entered a Pompano Beach McDonald's at a quarter to eleven. One held employees at bay with a gun while the other two coerced the manager into handing over $10,000.
On June 11, just before 5:00 a.m., two armed men wearing black clothes and ski masks stormed a McDonald's in Kendall, demanding that employees open the safe. They escaped with an unknown amount of money.
At a North Miami Beach Wendy's in the wee hours of March 22, three gunmen disguised in bandannas stormed the drive-through window. One of the men was apprehended days later, when he returned to order three Junior Bacon Cheeseburgers.
Last month a Wendy's manager working the graveyard shift was accosted after midnight by a disgruntled customer who demanded extra hot sauce. The manager complied, but was shot in the arm anyway. -- Isaiah Thompson